Screening programmes

The cervical screening test was introduced in the 1940s, and is still one of the most successful screening methods ever developed.

Many countries introduced regular cervical screening programmes in the 1960s, leading to a substantial reduction in the number of cases of cervical cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body..

For example, the incidenceThe number of new episodes of a condition arising in a certain group of people over a specified period of time. of cervical cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. in Germany fell by 73 per cent between 1960 and 1997, and in Canada there was a three-fold reduction in the death rate from cervical cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. from 1969 to 1990.

The ages at which screening is recommended can also differ between countries

Still, screening programmes are lacking in many parts of the world. A 2001 study by the World Health Organization found that while almost all the clinics in east, central and southern Africa had the facilities for cervical screening, very few women were in fact being screened.

The details of national screening programmes vary from country to country. For example, the English system promotes screening for eligible women every three years, while the Australian system recommends screening every two years (although both systems have been equally effective).

The ages at which screening is recommended can also differ between countries. It may be helpful to familiarise yourself with the local guidance in your country - see the Around the world directory for cervical cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body..