Behind the Screen

Cervical cancer is unique among cancers in that it is largely preventable, yet it still affects around 3,000 women each year. Screening can allow for almost all cervical cancers to be detected and treated before they have a chance to develop. But screening does not have the take-up that it should – and in the past ten years there has been a long, slow decline in screening coverage leading to an increase in the rates of cervical cancer.

Beyond these human costs, there is also a substantial financial cost to cervical cancer: not just on individuals but also on the NHS and state more widely. For the first time, Behind the Screen models the impact of an improved screening rate. It finds that the NHS currently spends around £21 million a year treating cervical cancer, while the state loses £9 million in tax revenue from women and their partners who stop work as a result. Women diagnosed with cervical cancer faced a combined financial loss of £14 million a year – £5,844, on average, for each woman diagnosed.

If screening coverage were to reach 100 per cent, it estimates that costs to the NHS would almost half, costs to the state would fall by a third, and total costs to women diagnosed with cervical cancer would fall by around 40 per cent. More importantly, incidence of cancer would also almost halve. Based on these findings, the report concludes by offering a set of recommendations for a renewed and concerted effort to increase the number of women regularly attending screening by removing some of the practical, psychological and emotional barriers.