New health campaign aims to save the lives of hundreds of women a year

Public Health England launched the government's first national campaign to promote cervical cancer screening today, to potentially save the lives of hundreds of women each year.

One of the images being used to promote the Cervical Screening Saves Lives campaign
One of the images being used to promote the Cervical Screening Saves Lives campaign

The Cervical Screening Saves Lives campaign has been prompted by concern over the falling number of women turning up for screening appointments, currently at an all-time low and significantly below the target of 80 per cent.

Around 2,600 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in England each year and around 690 women die from the disease. 

Lives could be saved

If everyone who is eligible attended screening regularly, 83% of cervical cancer cases could be prevented, according to PHE. 

Figures published by NHS Digital show that at 31 March 2018, the percentage of those eligible (aged 25-64) attending screening appointments was 71 per cent.

Freud Communications is handling the PR aspects of the campaign, which is urging women to attend screening appointments and warning that two women a day die from cervical cancer.

Another key message is that cervical screening can stop cancer before it starts by preventing potentially harmful cells from developing.

Target groups

The campaign is aimed at all women aged between 26 and 64, as well as specific groups who are disproportionately less likely to attend appointments, such as 25- to 34-year-olds, women from ethnic minorities or lower socio-economic backgrounds, and lesbian and bisexual women.

Campaign representatives including Julia Verne, consultant in public health at Public Health England, and NHS gynaecologist Dr Anita Mitra will feature in broadcast interviews to mark today’s campaign launch.

Singers Mel C and Faye Tozer, presenters Christine Lampard and Anita Rani, and actress Sunetra Sarker will be among the celebrities lending their support on social media, using #cervicalscreeningsaveslives.

The campaign, which will run until the end of next month, comes just weeks after Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust launched a #SmearForSmear campaign to coincide with Cervical Cancer Prevention Week.

Major investment

Some £2.5m has been spent on paid media for the campaign, which includes a new TV ad, made by M&C Saatchi, which focuses on women thanking others for reminding them to go to their screening appointment.

Other elements of the campaign, which will be rolled out in the weeks ahead, include a yoga-style video to highlight different positions women adopt during their procedure and a simple mindfulness animation to encourage people to relax and stay calm throughout the appointment.

Wavemaker, Freuds, M&C Saatchi, 23Red, Multicultural Marketing, Manning Gottlieb OMD and YouGov are among the agencies working on the campaign.

It is being backed by partner organisations including Slimming World, and promoted at GP surgeries and pharmacies.

Sheila Mitchell CBE, PHE marketing director, said: "The fall in the number of women taking the test is worrying. The campaign has a crucial role to play in encouraging women to take up their invitation or to book an appointment if they missed their last screening."

Health experts

Professor Anne Mackie, PHE director of screening said: "This new campaign will play a vital role in raising awareness of cervical screening, as it’s a real concern that fewer women, particularly younger women, are choosing to take screening up."

The campaign aims to result in an increase in the number of women going for screening tests, and health chiefs estimate that it could result in up to 143,000 women getting screened.

Cally Palmer, NHS England national cancer director, commented: "The campaign will encourage women who receive their screening letter and those who have not responded in the past to book a screening appointment."

She added: "I encourage all my colleagues across the country to spread the word about the forthcoming campaign and to prepare for a possible increase in the demand on services."

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