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NHS England pledges to eliminate cervical cancer by 2040

Amanda Pritchard, head of NHS England, has said that through a combination of vaccinations and screenings the disease will no longer affect women in this country.

This pledge, which was announced yesterday at a health conference in Liverpool, is thought to be the first time that any NHS leader, senior doctor, or health minister has held out the possibility of banishing any form of cancer within a set time period.

green plant with water droplets

Pritchard told the people at the conference: ‘It is truly momentous to be able to set out such an important, life-saving ambition today.

‘To eliminate cervical cancer would be an incredible achievement and through a combination of our HPV vaccination programme and our highly effective cervical screening programme, it could become a reality in the next two decades.’

However, despite setting such an optimistic goal, Pritchard did also mention that this achievement depends on school children and young adults getting vaccinated against the human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes 99% of cervical cancers. The horrendous disease develops when abnormal cells appear on the lining of a woman’s cervix and grow, eventually coming together as a tumour.

Since September, children have been receiving a single dose of the jab when they reach year eight, rather than the two doses given previously. Currently, the latest figures show that in 2021-22 86.5% of girls have had one dose of the vaccine by year 10 and for boys the figure is 81.5%.

Under new plans, Pritchard has claimed that health and care staff will be supported to identify people who need to vaccine, through targeted outreach and offering jabs in places where people study or socialise, including libraries, community centres and sport facilities.

Dr Julie Sharp, head of health and patient information at Cancer Research UK, said: ‘We support NHS England’s target and pledge to save even more lives from cervical cancer.

‘Combined with screening, HPV vaccination could reduce cervical cancer to the point where no one develops it.’

‘To ensure everyone has equal access to these life-saving programmes, there must be targeted action to increase HPV vaccination coverage and reduce barriers to cervical screening,’ Dr Sharp said. ‘This ambition will only be possible is the vaccination and screening programmes are backed by sufficient resource and modern IT infrastructure.’

Against this backdrop, England are not the only country working to eliminate cervical cancer within the coming years. Australia has said it wants to be the first country in the world to eliminate the disease by 2035.

Image: National Cancer Institute

More on this topic:

AI tool introduced to grade the severity of a rare cancer

Cervical cancer victory could slash the death rate by 35%

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