Experts say reducing the frequency of screening women for cervical cancer is safe and should be implemented across the UK.
A study of 1.3 million women in England found evidence that cervical screening, also known as swab testing, supported a long gap between as long as a person had tested for human papillomavirus (HPV). Have tested negative for the virus, which is a very common group of viruses. are usually sexually transmitted.
Researchers from King’s College London, the University of Manchester and the NHS analyzed data from the NHS Cervical Screening Program in England.
Results published today in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) show that screening every five years prevents as many cancers as screening every three years because the test used to screen for cervical mucus has changed and is more accurate. .
The new test, introduced in 2019, is known as HPV primary screening and more accurately detects who is at high risk of developing cervical cancer.
Most people will get some form of HPV in their lifetime, and nearly all cervical cancer is caused by infection.
Although it is often harmless, it can sometimes lead to the growth of abnormal cells in the cervix. If left untreated, these abnormal cells can become cancerous.
Before 2019, cytological tests initially screened the cells of the cervix for abnormalities. If found, they are tested for HPV. These tests were recommended every three years.
Northern Ireland still uses cytology tests, but cervical screening in England, Wales and Scotland now uses primary HPV screening, following a recommendation by scientists.
“My cancer could have been prevented with the introduction of HPV screening”
Laura Flaherty, above, was 31 when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer via a smear test.
As before HPV screening began in 2019, mother-in-law say it could have been caught earlier – or even prevented – if the screening system had been changed.
Ms. Flaherty, now 35, said: “In most cases, screening detects changes before they develop into cancer, so you can prevent you ever getting cancer. While I have everything, cancer still haunts me today. Affects, my treatment means I can no longer have children and the psychological effects are still killing me.
“I’m not a scientist, but I think it’s important that any evidence for decisions around screening is communicated really clearly, because big changes can seem pretty scary. For me the priority is greater. Women and people with cervix should be screened and many people are not breastfeeding which is really worrying.
“I think we need to make screening easier because a lot of women find it uncomfortable or embarrassing or even difficult to reach their GP. HPV home testing is something we need to look out for. The need is so that you can test at your home. Awareness campaigns are also important so that we can remind people why testing exists and not ignore their invitation.”
Lead author Dr. Matejka Rebolj, chief epidemiologist at King’s, said: “These results are very reassuring. They show, based on previous research, that after the introduction of HPV testing for cervical screening, the five-year lag is shorter. It’s as safe as the last three-year gap. Moving to five-year screening means we can prevent the same number of cancers as before, allowing fewer screenings.”
Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, which funded the study, said: “This large study shows that offering cervical cancer screening along with HPV testing can often prevent cervical cancer without the need to screen. It’s effective in the U.S. It’s important to remember that screening is for people without symptoms. So if you notice any unusual changes, don’t wait for an invitation to be tested – talk to your doctor.”
Stephen Duffy, Professor of Cancer Screening at Queen Mary University of London, said: “These results indicate that in primary HPV screening, we can be confident that a five-year interval between those tested is as short as a three-year interval. Effective in negative intervals. Annual intervals with cytology and probably more effective.”
Comment has been sought from the Health Ministry.
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