The Scottish and Welsh governments are reconsidering the age at which women are invited for cervical screening tests following advice by The UK National Screening Committee (NSC).
The National Screening Committee said evidence showed that screening at aged 20-24 was substantially less effective in preventing cancer and advanced-stage tumours. It is believed that precancerous changes commonly found in young women most often resolve on their own.
Women in Scotland and Wales are currently invited for cervical screening at 20. Screening in England was raised to 25 from 20 in 2003. Northern Ireland adopted the same policy as England from January 2011.
The National Screening Committee has proposed the first UK-wide policy, which calls for screening to begin at age 25. If agreed, this would put pressure on Scotland and Wales to raise their screening age.
At a UK NSC meeting, the committee recommended inviting women for screening from age 25 ‘on the basis that there is evidence of a huge number of women screened and treated with relatively little benefit’. Women aged 50-65 would be invited every five years.
A spokeswoman for the Scottish government said ‘We note the recommendations from the UK NSC and these will be considered alongside the recommendations from the Scottish expert group.’
A spokeswoman for the Welsh government said the government would review its stance if the UK NSC policy was accepted. She added that she was ‘99.9%’ sure Wales would alter its guidelines to match those of any approved UK-wide policy.
The new policy will be put out for consultation this month.