A recent research carried out by researchers from the Centre for Cancer Prevention suggests that lives of hundreds of cervical cancer patients could be saved if patients keep alert about it and go for screening at the initial stage. The analysis estimated an additional 347 deaths per year in England could be prevented if women with with higher probability of the ailment attended cervical screening.
The analysis looked at screening history for more than 11,000 women diagnosed with cervical cancer and matched controls without cancer. The study aimed to look at the potential impact of screening on diagnoses and deaths from cervical cancer. It found there would be an estimated four to five times more deaths from cervical cancer in women over 35 if no screening existed.
However, if all eligible women attended screening regularly there could be even greater benefit, further reducing deaths by half in women 35 to 49, and by two-thirds in women 50 to 64. This translates into an extra 347 lives per year saved by screening.
If cervical cancer is diagnosed at an early stage then the prospects of a complete cure are good.
It could well be the case that the issue of cervical cancer had dropped off the radar for many women since interest previously spiked after the death of reality star Jade Goody in 2009. These results may suggest that more now needs to be done to encourage uptake by all suspected patients.
Nicola Smith, an expert at Cancer Research UK, pointed out that cervical screening wasn’t just an issue for younger women. “Older women may not think this type of screening is relevant to them, but while cervical cancer is unusual in that it affects women at younger ages than most cancers, older women also develop the disease,” she said.
In the absence of screening, it was estimated there would be more than double the number of cancers diagnosed in women aged 25 to 79.
If all eligible women were regularly screened, there would be around a third fewer cancers.
Changing screening practices would have the greatest impact on women aged 50 to 64.
Cancer rates would be about four times higher with no screening. If everyone was regularly screened, rates in this age group would be less than half the current rate.
The researchers concluded, “screening has an even larger impact on cervical cancer mortality than it has on [cancer diagnosis rates], and that if everyone attended screening regularly, 83 percent of cervical cancer deaths could be prevented, compared with 70 percent with current screening.”
“A further 347 deaths per year could be prevented if everyone attended screening regularly between ages 25 and 64 years,” they added.
The findings suggest that screening currently prevents thousands of cervical cancers each year.
However, if uptake were improved further and all eligible women attended regular screening, even more cancers could be avoided and lives saved. One note of caution though is that the study still can’t prove that cervical cancer screening is wholly responsible for any differences in cancer diagnoses or mortality rates between cases and controls.
There may be important lifestyle factors that are associated both with risk of cervical cancer and likelihood of attending screening.
Women who smoke are at increased risk of cervical cancer, as are women who have unprotected sex with multiple partners (increasing their risk of acquiring the HPV virus that causes the cancer).
It is possible that some women with these risk factors could also be less likely to follow other healthy lifestyle practices, such as attending regular screening.
The study was published in the peer-reviewed medical journal British Journal of Cancer.