Health Service Focus

20.01.20

New screening has “potential to eliminate” cervical cancer in England

A more sensitive cervical cancer screening test could save the lives of hundreds of women in England, as part of the NHS Long Term Plan.

NHS England has today (Jan 20) announced that there is a new “potential to eliminate” cervical cancer completely thanks to the change in primary test within the NHS Cervical Cancer Screening Programme and the effectiveness of the HPV vaccine.

A new screening test, rolled out as part of the NHS Long Term Plan, will provide a more sensitive test, looking for traces of high-risk Human Papillomavirus (HPV) which is the cause for nearly all cases of cervical cancer.

HPV is a group of viruses with more than 100 types, but 14 types can cause cervical cancer as well as some head and neck cancers. If a test shows HPB positive, they will then be checked for abnormal changes of the cervix.

The new testing means that any signs of infection are spotting early than before, potentially prevent the development of cancer in the body.

This new method has been in place since the beginning of December, as part of the NHS Long Term Plan’s ambitions to catch cancers earlier, making them easier to treat and survive. Research says that of the 2,500 new cases of cervical cancer in England every year, a quarter of those could be prevented with this new way of testing.

Professor Peter Johnson, national clinical director for cancer said:

“Screening is one of the most effective ways of protecting against cervical cancer and there is no doubt this new way of testing will save lives. It is vitally important that all eligible people attend for their screening appointments, to keep themselves safe.

“Combined with the success of the HPV vaccine for both boys and girls, we hope that cervical cancer can be eliminated altogether by the NHS in England. The chances of surviving cancer are at a record high, but there is always more we can do, as we continue to deliver our Long Term Plan.”

Professor Johnson added that cervical cancer often causes no symptoms during the early stages of the disease, which is why it is “especially important that people attend their tests and that those who are eligible get vaccinated against HPV.”

Professor Anne Mackie, director of Screening at Public Health England said:

“With HPV vaccinations for all year 8 pupils and HPV testing available nationally, cervical cancer promises to become very rare indeed. This is a truly momentous achievement, but to ensure we consign this disease to the past we must keep vaccination rates high and continue to provide safe and acceptable screening for all women.”

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