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Screening for cancer: too much or too little? (Health and Nutrition)


The debate about cancer screening has again been in the news with the disconnect between the prevalence of cervical cancer and the lack of routine screening on women over 65.

Half of all deaths attributable to cervical cancer are in women over 65 and this has fuelled calls for the upper limit of screening to be raised.

As with other cancers the chances of having the disease increase with age. Cervical cancer is associated with human papilloma virus and so with the advent of a vaccine for this cancer, prevalence should decrease.  The issue is that some women may not have been for their smear tests or may harbour longer term symptoms. 

This increases the imperative for more screening in older women, which in the longer term might place more burden on GPs, but overall should save lives and save the NHS many millions in the long run.

Dr Neil Sullivan

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