The NHS cervical screening program in the UK will switch to testing women first for any signs of infection with this virus that also causes cervical cancer, instead of initially looking for irregular cells.
The public health minister, Ms. Jane Ellison, said the change will allow women benefit from more precise tests. Estimates suggest that the initial testing for human papillomavirus (HPV) can prevent about 600 further occurrences of cervical cancer in the UK every year.
The Cancer Research UK also welcomed this move, and the charity’s chief executive, Harpal Kumar describes it as a “massive step forward” which will help save even more lives.
HPV infection is quite common, and this virus can be contracted through skin-to-skin contact, particularly during sex. About 8 out of 10 individuals will be infected with this virus at some period in their lives, and the infection usually goes away on its own.
But in some women, some types of the virus may cause persistent infections which can eventually cause cervical cancer.
HPV tests are presently only used for cervical screening after irregular cells are found in a female’s screening sample, to assist in deciding whether further investigation is required. But research has revealed that testing for the Human Papilloma Virus first is better at averting cervical cancer, by ensuring that the causes that could cause the disease are found and treated.
Sarah Williams, the health information manager, also at the Cancer Research UK, stated that exchanging the order of these tests “may sound trivial”, but it will actually have a great impact.
“Cervical screening is primarily intended to avert cervical cancer, but may also pick up occurrences of the disease. It’s essential to tell your doctor if you find any unusual changes in your body like bleeding between periods, during sex or during menopause,” she said.