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The ambitious campaign to make cervical cancer a thing of the past

NHS England recently set out a “new and ambitious target” to eliminate cervical cancer by 2040. 

Tweeting from the annual NHS Providers conference, chief executive, Amanda Pritchard, said that “school teams have already protected millions of young people from HPV, directly preventing an estimated 450 cancers. By continuing to make it easier to access and catch up on vaccines and continuing to make progress on screening, we can eliminate the threat of HPV by 2040 sparing thousands more women the pain and worry of cancer”. 

If this aim is achieved, England will be one of the first countries to make cervical cancer a thing of the past. Although, Australia is on track to be the first country in the world to eliminate cervical cancer by as early as 2028 to 2035.

NHS England’s announcement follows the global strategy adopted by the World Health Assembly in 2020 to accelerate the elimination of cervical cancer. The strategy rests on three main pillars: prevention through vaccination, screening and treatment of pre-cancerous lesions, treatment and palliative care for invasive cervical cancer.

What is cervical cancer?

The NHS defines cervical cancer as cancer that's found anywhere in the cervix. 

Symptoms of cervical cancer include: 

  • Vaginal bleeding that's unusual for you – including bleeding during or after sex, between your periods or after the menopause, or having heavier periods than usual.
  • Changes to your vaginal discharge.
  • Pain during sex.
  • Pain in your lower back, between your hip bones (pelvis), or in your lower tummy. 

However, these symptoms may also be caused by something that isn't cervical cancer, so it's important that anyone experiencing these symptoms sees a health professional.  

According to The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), based on data from 2016-2018, the peak incidence rates in the UK were in women aged 30–34. It added one in 142 women in the UK will be diagnosed with cervical cancer in their lifetime. There were 3,197 new cervical cancer cases each year based on the 2016-2018 average.

Prevention of cervical cancer

Some types of the human papillomavirus (HPV) are linked to an increased risk of certain types of cancer including: cervical cancer, mouth cancer, anal cancer, and penile cancer. The HPV vaccine helps protect against the virus and is recommended for children aged 12 to 13-years-old and people at higher risk from HPV.


In England, you will automatically be invited for cervical screening if you are between the ages of 25 to 64 and registered as female with a GP surgery. Cervical screening can detect early signs of disease.

Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust

Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust is the UK’s leading cervical cancer charity. In response to NHS England’s announcement, a representative from the charity said to Irwin Mitchell: “At Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust we have been calling for commitments to end cervical cancer in the UK, so we're really pleased that NHS England is pledging to eliminate cervical cancer by 2040. 

"Jo’s was founded in memory of Jo Maxwell who sadly passed away from cervical cancer leaving her husband, James, and their three children. Back then there were limited prevention programmes and support available for those affected by cervical cancer and it was their hope that one day no one else would succumb to this disease. 

"Since then, the HPV vaccination programme has been incredibly successful and has already led to an 87% decrease in cervical cancer incidence amongst women in their 20s, so it's fantastic to see renewed efforts to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to receive the jab. 

"For the UK to succeed in the elimination of cervical cancer, we need a joined-up programmed approach that raises awareness, maximises vaccination coverage, and tackles inequalities and barriers to cervical screening. Crucially, this will take sustained investment and partnership between the NHS, schools, and organisations like ours, who can work together to make this ambition a reality.

"We deeply appreciate our partners’ support as we take steps towards a future without cervical cancer.”

Cervical Cancer Prevention Week will take place between 22 and 28 January 2024

Supporting those affected by cervical cancer 

As a medical negligence solicitor, I've supported many clients who have suffered a delay in diagnosis of cancer and too often see the devastating impact that this can have in terms of prognosis and treatment options.

Irwin Mitchell represents hundreds of families nationally who have been affected by a delay in receiving a cancer diagnosis.

Find out more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in supporting women and families affected by cervical cancer at our dedicated cancer claims section. Alternatively, to speak to an expert contact us or call 0370 1500 100.