Huge decline in people having cancer screening tests in Wolverhampton

Health bosses in Wolverhampton are urging more people to take cancer screening tests after figures revealed a huge decline in numbers over the last five years.

New Cross Hospital in Wolverhampton
New Cross Hospital in Wolverhampton

The three main cancer screening programmes – testing for bowel, breast and cervical cancer – are targeted to those most likely to benefit.

However, rates are below the England average across all three of the programmes, Thursday’s meeting of the city’s Health Scrutiny Board heard.

A report to members said cancer prevalence is growing and will continue to grow over the coming years, with an estimate that by 2030 there will be as many as 135,000 people in the West Midlands living with and beyond cancer.

Principal Public Health Specialist Sophie Pagett said: “Cardiovascular disease and cancer are some of our most preventable deaths but we’ve got a lot of work to do. Our main aim is to see an improvement in all cancer screening in Wolverhampton over the next 12 months.

“Screening is a really important way of identifying apparently healthy people who may have an increased risk of particular conditions such as cardiovascular disease and cancers.

“The aim is to offer screening programmes to people who are most likely to benefit or are more at risk. Finding out about a problem earlier can mean that treatment is much more effective, so early diagnosis is key.

“To achieve this we want to make sure that we’ve got cross-sector commitment from all our partners,” she added.

In 2018, Wolverhampton bowel cancer screening rates were at their lowest in the last five years at 51 per cent, compared to 57 per cent in the West Midlands and 59.4 per cent across the Black Country.

Despite the introduction of new testing kits over the last few years, and services having now recovered from the effects of the pandemic, Wolverhampton rates remain at 56.2 per cent – lower than both the West Midlands and England averages of 62.3 per cent and 65.2 per cent.

In Wolverhampton, rates started to decline to 68.6 per cent in 2018 and continue to decline in 2022, reaching 52.4 per cent. This is lower than both the regional and England averages, which are both above 62 per cent, with the Black Country average at 58.2 per cent.

Cervical screening follows the same trend line as both the West Midlands and England averages. However, the rates have been consistently lower in Wolverhampton, reaching 64 per cent and 71 per cent for each age group following the pandemic – just lower than the Black Country average of 64.5 per cent and 72.1 per cent.

Whilst the rates are lower locally, the gap between Wolverhampton and England is smaller than the other cancer screening programmes.

Wolverhampton is ranked 24th most deprived local authority in England, with 21 per cent of the population living in the top 10 per cent of the most deprived areas in the country.

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