Thousands of women have treatment to remove abnormal cells in the cervix every year as a preventative measure against cervical cancer. However, according to a new study, scientists now believe that a lot of these removals might be unnecessary. Based on the results of the research, half of all women who were identified as having “moderate” lesions on the cervix had them clear up naturally. Another third of cases saw them remain the same. Only 0.5% of the women were actually diagnosed with cancer in the two year monitoring period, and only 20% of cases saw a development to a more serious type of lesion which could result in cancer in the future.
This is even more relevant when it comes to treating younger women. In those under thirty, the number of lesions regressing on their own was almost 60%, and only 11% lead to cancer. The majority of women whose “moderate” stage lesions progressed to cancer were over the age of thirty. In light of this new evidence, the scientists who were involved in the study believe that instead of the lesion being removed immediately, more regular and careful screening could be a better option for women with abnormal cell growth.
In replacing surgery with screening, a large number of women could avoid having invasive surgery, which can lead to complications in future births. It was also found that those who were invited for more intense screening programmes had a 90% attendance rate, showing that it could be a viable and effective option. But, despite this strong evidence, the team also noted that the idea of not having immediate treatment might not be acceptable for all patients. “It still means taking a gamble that surveillance is simply delaying treatment and even a small risk of cancer (0.5% in this study) may still be unacceptable to some”, said one of the authors of the study, Professor Maggie Cruickshank from University of Aberdeen.
John Butler, a consultant gynaecological oncology surgeon at the The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, who was not involved in the study said: “This study provides helpful information for the management of a subgroup of women with this cervical cancer pre-cursor. Standard management involves excision of the lesion which may be associated with complications from the procedure and any future pregnancies. Therefore whilst this study is of importance to a some patients who are considering their treatment options it is essential that every step is taken to maximise attendance at cervical cancer screening particularly in younger patients.”