Cervical screening in England: the past, present, and future

Cancer Cytopathol. 2012 Apr 25;120(2):87-96. doi: 10.1002/cncy.20203. Epub 2012 Feb 24.


Cervical screening in England commenced in a disorganized fashion in 1964. The flaws of this approach became apparent in the mid-1980s and led to the inception of the National Health Service Cervical Screening Programme (NHSCSP). The main features of this program are its population-based registry, accessibility to all women within the screening age range, its systematic process of call and recall, national coordination, and quality assurance. Its success is in part based on its ability to evolve as evidence necessitates, and throughout the period of 2000-2010, it embarked upon a series of developments involving liquid-based cytology, which also provided the means to conduct reflex high-risk human papillomavirus (HR-HPV) testing and the potential to automate the screening process. As a result of evidence acquired since 2000, the NHSCSP is currently based on a system of primary cytology with HPV triage for low-grade abnormalities combined with cytology plus a HR-HPV "test of cure" for women who have received treatment for cervical intraepithelial neoplasia. Future challenges for the program will involve finding solutions to increasing screening uptake among women <30 years of age-a problem that may be exacerbated when vaccinated women reach the screening age, while making plans to accommodate HPV primary screening.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Early Detection of Cancer*
  • England
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / prevention & control*