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Aurora project: Cervical cancer screening for all women

Every year around 31,000 cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed in the EU and about 13,000 women die of this disease. Among women aged 15-44, it is the second most common cancer after breast cancer. Within Europe there are wide variations in cervical cancer mortality and incidence rates. In particular, the situation in most of the new Member States is much worse than the rest of Europe.

The Aurora project, funded under the EU Health Programmes, is working on strategies on how to promote and implement cervical cancer screening in Europe, targeting women of reproductive age (30–69 years old) and ensuring coverage of hard-to-reach groups, such as migrants and women living in rural areas.

Through its research, Aurora will try to help the new EU Member States implement successful screening programmes. It has already analysed the local context to see where screening programmes are available and whether hard-to-reach groups are actually being screened.

For example, it found that, even if with screening programme in place, take up by migrants was in fact very low. Factors for this vary – it could be that migrants do not speak the language of the country they are living in, and therefore do not understand letters sent by health authorities, or were simply afraid when an 'official looking' letter was sent. Many areas simply lack screening programmes.

Promoting women's health

The project also focuses on advocating the issues of women's health in this field and will assist the new EU Member States in the implementation of screening for cervical cancer where gaps exist in existing programmes, or where there is no screening in place, or where screening is in place but does not work. Aurora aims at promoting a European exchange of information and expertise on the development and implementation of good practices in cervical cancer prevention and advocacy.

Through the EU funding, it is hoped that the issue of cervical cancer will be brought to the attention of policymakers, highlighting the need for better screening, early detection and prevention, particularly in the new Member States and within hard-to-reach groups.

For more information:

European Commission – Public Health

Public Health European Commission – Health-EU

European Partnership for Action Against Cancer