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Cancer Screening in the UK: Current Perspectives and Future Strategies

Cancer Screening in the UK: Current Perspectives and Future Strategies

Cancer is a serious global health problem, ranking among the leading causes of suffering and mortality worldwide1. In the UK, there have been hard efforts to become the world’s leaders in tackling the disease, but a recent report reveals otherwise. The European Cancer Organisation (ECO), in collaboration with Cancer Research UK (CRUK), has recently published a report called “European Cancer Pulse: Tracking Inequalities in Cancer – United Kingdom Country Report” highlighting critical areas in general cancer care requiring urgent attention and action2

The report reveals that general cancer incidence in the UK is around 14% higher compared to the EU, while the associated mortality from cancer is 7.5% lower2. Additionally, the report underscores the UK’s strengths in terms of general cancer care, including the availability of palliative care services and national initiatives such as cancer registries and audits. However, it also identifies certain areas for improvement, such as cancer screening rates, prevention measures, and healthcare workforce shortages.

The power of screening: Why it matters

Early detection plays a pivotal role in cancer prevention, treatment, and survival3. Screening enables the detection of pre-cancerous changes or early-stage cancers, often prior to the onset of any associated signs or symptoms. The main benefits of cancer screening are as follows:

  • Increased treatment success: Early detection allows for more effective and less invasive treatment options, significantly improving the chances of a successful outcome.
  • Improved quality of life: Timely intervention can minimise the impact of cancer on a patient’s life, allowing for better management and potentially also a return to a certain level of normality.
  • Reduced healthcare burden: Early diagnosis of cancer reduces the strain on healthcare resources and the costs associated with the complex and expensive treatment of advanced cancer cases.

Cancer screening: Missed opportunities for early detection

The ECO report reveals concerning statistics relating to cancer screening in the UK. Despite the wide implementation of screening programmes for breast, cervical, and colorectal cancers, participation rates still fail to meet national and European targets.

Breast cancer screening

Figures reveal that over a third of UK women have yet to seize this potentially life-saving opportunity, despite breast screening helping to save the lives of approximately 19,000 women in 2022-234. This underscores the importance for thousands of women to attend their breast screening appointments following invitation from the NHS, to enable the detection of breast cancer at an early stage, and to give people the best chance of successful treatment.

Colorectal (bowel) cancer screening

While nationwide colorectal screening programmes are in place, and despite around 43,000 colorectal cancer cases being diagnosed every year in the UK5, only about 67% of eligible individuals participate in this crucial preventative measure2, which primarily aims at reducing the incidence and mortality rates of colorectal cancer.

Cervical screening

Cervical screening represents a highly effective approach in preventing cervical cancer. It serves as a vital tool for the early detection of human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, which causes 99.8% of cervical cancer cases, enabling the effective monitoring and management of any identified cell changes before they progress to cancer, ultimately saving lives. According to the UK National Screening Committee (UK NSC), cervical screening programmes have been estimated to save 4,500 lives annually in the UK since their implementation in 19646. Despite all the compelling evidence that cervical screening significantly reduces both the incidence of cervical cancer and related mortality6,7, the adoption of this crucial, potentially life-saving, procedure continues to lag behind expectations. Recent findings revealed that only around 69% of individuals aged 25 to 64 underwent cervical screening within the recommended timeframe for the year 2022-238, down from nearly 70% the previous year, which is significantly below the national target of 80%9.

Conclusion 

In summary, the ECO report is a powerful reminder of the importance of cancer prevention for improved health outcomes, and provides a valuable opportunity for introspection and improvement. By prioritising early detection through screening, a person’s risk of developing cancer is remarkably reduced through early management and treatment. However, to ensure that people actually attend their screening appointments, the whole process should be improved and the experience to be made as positive as possible. Currently, the fact that 1 in 3 eligible women in the UK do not attend their cervical screening appointment is a huge concern. Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable types of cancer, as it is caused by HPV the vast majority of the time; yet, thousands of cases are getting diagnosed every year, needlessly taking the lives of hundreds of women. Hence, there is a need for greater efforts to innovate the current approach to cervical screening, and improve its convenience and accessibility to boost participation rates among those eligible.

10zyme: Prioritising women’s health

10zyme is improving cervical screening with a groundbreaking test designed to enhance your experience and put you in control of your cervical health.

Our at-home test AND results kit will be easy-to-use, reliable, and non-invasive, enabling you to conveniently screen for HPV infections that cause cervical cancer in the comfort and privacy of your home, with results available in just minutes.

At 10zyme, our goal is to create a positive change in women’s health. With our innovative diagnostic test, you will be able to proactively manage your health by providing better access to vital preventative measures against cancer.

Explore our website to discover more about our cutting-edge mission, and visit 10zyme’s Education Station to learn more about Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and the associated health conditions, including cervical cancer and other related types of cancer, through our diverse range of engaging and informative blogs, articles, and free downloadable guides dedicated to equipping you with essential knowledge that will help effectively guide your prevention strategy.

Also, follow us for the latest news, events, and updates on our social channels: LinkedIn, Instagram, and TikTok.

References:

  1. World Health Organization (WHO). (2024). Cancer. (Online). Available at: https://www.who.int/health-topics/cancer [Accessed 01/05/2024]
  2. European Cancer Organisation (ECO). (2024). European Cancer Pulse – Tracking Inequalities in Cervical Cancer. Country Report – United Kingdom. (Online). Retrieved from: https://www.europeancancer.org/pulse [Accessed 30/04/2024]
  3. Cancer Research UK (CRUK). (2022). What is cancer screening? (Online). Available at: https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/cancer-symptoms/spot-cancer-early/screening/what-is-cancer-screening [Accessed 01/05/2024]
  4. National Health Service (NHS) England. (2024). New breast screening figures prompt fresh uptake appeal. (Online). Available at: https://www.england.nhs.uk/2024/01/new-breast-screening-figures-prompt-fresh-uptake-appeal/ [Accessed 30/04/2024]
  5. Shekleton, FE, Okocha, M. (2024). UK Screening and Surveillance For Bowel Cancers. StatPearls Publishing. (Online). Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK599509/ [Accessed 01/05/2024]
  6. UK National Screening Committee (UK NSC). (2019). Cervical cancer. (Online). Available at: https://view-health-screening-recommendations.service.gov.uk/cervical-cancer/ [Accessed 30/04/2024]
  7. Choi S., Ismail, A., Pappas-Gogos, G., Boussios, S. (2023). HPV and Cervical Cancer: A Review of Epidemiology and Screening Uptake in the UK. PubMed Central (PMC). 12(2):298. (Online). Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9960303/ [Accessed 30/04/2024]
  8. National Health Service (NHS) England. (2023). Women urged to take up NHS cervical screening invitations. (Online). Available at: https://www.england.nhs.uk/2023/11/women-urged-to-take-up-nhs-cervical-screening-invitations/ [Accessed 01/05/2024]
  9. The Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH). (2023). NHS Digital releases 2022-2023 data for the Cervical Screening Programme in England. (Online). Available at: https://www.fsrh.org/news/nhs-digital-releases-2022-2023-data-for-the-cervical-screening/ [Accessed 01/05/2024]

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