Health experts have called for screening for cervical cancer to be rolled out to women over 64 after research found one in five new cases is diagnosed in this age group.
About 3,000 cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed in the United Kingdom annual, and it is the most common cancer in women under the age of 35.
However, researchers assert that on average 20% of the 3,1211 new cases diagnosed each year were in women over the age of 65. 65 is the age at which the screening program currently ends.
Women over this age also accounted for half of deaths from cervical cancer.
Another report found that a lack of knowledge about the cause of the disease and who can be affected seems to be contributing to older women not attending screening.
Screening is the most effective way of preventing cervical cancer and is offered to women aged from 25 to 64 on the NHS, however data shows that last year there was a significant drop in screening as women’s age increased.
There is a concern that if attendance for cervical screening continues to decline among older women, more will face a later stage diagnosis of cervical cancer.
Despite all the attention on younger women, 20% of new diagnoses and nearly 50% of cervical cancer deaths occur in woman over the age of 64.
Researchers assert that there is a need to change the perception of cervical cancer so it is thought of just like breast and bowel cancer, that it can affect women well into old age.
It is vital that women of all ages are educated around the cause of cervical cancer and their risk of HPV. Responses from women questioned during the study were worrying with some participants citing they had been “celibate” for several years and therefore did not consider themselves to be at risk.