NHS Aims to Eliminate Cervical Cancer in England by 2040

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NHS England has pledged to eliminate cervical cancer in the country by 2040, according to NHS England boss Amanda Pritchard. In a conference of health leaders, Pritchard will outline the plan, emphasising the need for increased vaccination and screening rates to achieve the goal. Currently, approximately 2,600 women in England are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year.

Pritchard will call for the adoption of successful strategies from the Covid pandemic, such as offering catch-up vaccinations in community settings with low uptake. Additionally, improvements will be made to the NHS app to facilitate checking vaccination history and booking appointments.

Globally, many countries, including Australia, are working towards eliminating cervical cancer by achieving a low rate of four cases per 100,000, as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO). To reach this goal, WHO sets targets of 90% for vaccination and 70% for screening.

The HPV vaccine, which is 90% effective against the virus responsible for 99% of cervical cancers, has seen 86% of girls and 81% of boys in England receiving it. Cervical screening plays a vital role in preventing and treating cervical cancer, detecting early signs and preventing three-quarters of cases from developing.

Despite progress, one in three eligible individuals does not undergo cervical screening. Trials of self-testing screening kits will be expanded to address this issue.

While there are currently 9.5 cervical cancer cases per 100,000 women in England, more than double the target rate, the introduction of the HPV vaccine has led to an 87% reduction in cervical cancers among vaccinated girls since 2008. The NHS aims to further reduce incidence rates in the coming years through increased vaccination and screening.

In her address, Pritchard will encourage the public to participate in vaccination and screening programs, emphasising that achieving the goal of eliminating cervical cancer requires widespread participation.

Cancer Research UK’s Dr. Julie Sharp expressed support for the ambitious goal but stressed the importance of targeted action to increase uptake and reduce barriers to participation, such as embarrassment, past negative experiences, difficulty in booking appointments, and lack of understanding about the smear test. She emphasised the need for sufficient resources and modern IT infrastructure to achieve this goal.

Kiki Garba

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