Intended for healthcare professionals

Views & Reviews No Holds Barred

Doctors and patients confuse cervical screening with diagnostic tests

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: (Published 20 May 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g3334
  1. Margaret McCartney, general practitioner, Glasgow, UK
  1. margaret{at}

Campaigns backed by patients and families to lower the age at which women are eligible for cervical screening are understandable. They present screening to the UK public as a logical, clear headed, and obvious health need.

The age at which cervical screening starts was raised from 20 to 25 in England after a recommendation from the advisory committee on cervical cancer screening in 2003.1 Northern Ireland followed in 2011,2 and Scotland will from 2015.3 I suspect that many campaigners saw this merely as rationing. If you believe that screening would have saved a 22 year old woman’s life, and it were available in Scotland but not in England, a natural conclusion is …

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