A new test has been introduced across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, as part of the national cervical screening process, which enables women who have low grade cervical cell changes to be treated sooner.
Cervical Screening is currently offered to all women aged between 25 and 64 years in the UK and is aimed at reducing the number of women who develop invasive cervical cancer. Women are already invited to attend screening either every three or five years depending on their age. The sample taken is tested for early cell changes which may develop into cervical cancer if left untreated.
The new test, known as the HPV test, detects the Human Papilloma Virus. This is a very common infection and around 80% of men and women get it at some time in their life, often without ever knowing. In most cases it clears up by itself without the need for treatment.
However, there are over 100 types of HPV and although many are harmless, some are known to be more closely associated with long term harm, specifically cervical cancer; the new HPV test to be used in cervical screening is designed to detect these high risk types of HPV.
Women will attend for screening when invited and a sample will be taken as usual. The sample is sent to the laboratory and depending on the result of an initial analysis, the new HPV test will be applied to some samples. Women can then be referred for appropriate treatment sooner than previously, reducing anxiety and preventing the possible development of cervical cancer. This test is being rolled out across England throughout 2012.
If HPV is found in her sample the woman will be invited to go for a colposcopy appointment. Colposcopy involves looking closely at the cervix to see whether any treatment is needed and often treatment is carried out at the same time. This can prevent the virus from becoming more severe.
Dr Jenifer Smith, Director of Public Health from the SHIP PCT Cluster covering Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, is enthusiastic about the new test: “The main benefit to introducing this additional testing of selected screening samples is that we can intervene sooner where women are at high risk of developing cervical cancer whilst reducing anxiety generated by repeated testing of those for whom this is not necessary.”
Professor Julietta Patnick, director of the NHS Cancer Screening Programmes said; “This is an important development in our programme, enabling us to screen women more effectively and efficiently.”
Women are being informed about the HPV test via the routine letter they receive when they are next due a cervical screening appointment.
There will be no changes to the actual appointment process and women will not experience any change to the procedure; the sample taken will just be subject to further testing if necessary.
Women should still receive their results within two weeks of the sample being taken. The HPV testing will only be carried out if the sample taken from a woman shows mild abnormalities (called borderline or mild dyskaryosis) in the initial tests.
The greatest risks of developing cervical cancer are not attending for screening when invited and smoking.
Further information about HPV testing can be found at www.cancerscreening.nhs.uk.
This article has been read 648 times!