Importance Of Testing Highlighted For Cervical Cancer Prevention Week

Women are being encouraged not to ignore their cervical screening (smear test) invite, as a drive gets underway to highlight the importance of the test, which screens for the human papillomavirus virus (HPV).

To mark Cervical Cancer Prevention Week (17 – 23 January 2022), healthcare professionals across Scotland have reinforced that the cervical screening test now offered is more sensitive, screening for HPV – the main cause of cervical cancer – to help ensure any cell changes are identified and treated earlier.

As the test is more effective, those who are found to have HPV will be invited for screening every year, so any cell changes can be closely monitored, and referred for further investigation and treatment if needed.

Those whose test sample shows no signs of HPV will be invited for their screening appointment in five years, as evidence shows the chance of developing cervical cancer during this time is very low.

Scotland introduced five-year cervical screening testing for women aged between 25-49 years with no HPV in March 2020, at the same time as HPV testing was introduced into the cervical screening programme.

This followed a recommendation from the UK National Screening Committee, the body of scientists who advise ministers and the NHS about screening programmes.

Fiona Mulgrew, NHS Forth Valley Lead Nurse Colposcopist/ Sister, who is based at Forth Valley Royal Hospital, today reassured women about testing for HPV as they encouraged those eligible to attend their smear test appointment when invited.

She said: “Even if everything feels fine, it’s important not to ignore your smear test invite as it can stop cervical cancer before it starts.

“HPV testing, which is carried out as part of your smear test, is much more effective and sensitive, helping identify those at higher risk of cervical cancer much quicker.

“It takes a long time for HPV to develop into cervical cancer, so it’s very rare for a woman who doesn’t have HPV to develop cervical cancer within five years.

“If HPV is found as part of your smear, please try not to worry. HPV is very common, and you’ll be invited back every year to monitor any cell changes, before they could potentially develop into cervical cancer.

“It’s understandable to feel anxious about the smear test itself, but the five-minute test is the best way of preventing cervical cancer, so please don’t put it off.”

For more information on cervical screening, visit NHS Inform and for information on HPV, visit Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust.