Cervical cancer could be eliminated, NHS says

Vaccinations for all children, along with upgraded screening for HPV ‘will save lives’

Vaccinations for all children, along with upgraded screening for HPV infection ‘will save lives’

Picture shows a school nurse giving a girl the HPV vaccination. Vaccinations for children a new screening method that looks for traces of HPV and could result in cervical cancer being eliminated, the NHS says.
Picture: Alamy

Cervical cancer could potentially be eliminated thanks to upgraded screening and vaccinations for children, the NHS says.

A new screening method in which cervical samples are first checked for the human papilloma virus (HPV) has now been rolled out by the NHS in England and Wales

NHS national clinical director for cancer Peter Johnson said the new screening test will save lives, adding: ‘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.’

Read more articles on cervical cancer

All samples tested for HPV infection

HPV, which is spread through skin-to-skin contact, usually during sex, causes almost all cases of cervical cancer.

Until now, cervical screening samples have been examined for abnormal cells, and those that showed possible cell changes were then tested for HPV.

But under the new screening programme, part of the NHS Long Term Plan, cells are first tested for HPV infection and only those that have the virus are examined for abnormal cells. This means any sign of infection can be spotted at an earlier stage, potentially before cancer develops.

Changes to screening in Scotland and Northern Ireland

Scotland, which currently uses cytology to check for signs of abnormal cells, will move to HPV primary screening in March, with Northern Ireland expected to follow suit.

There are 2,500 new cases of cervical cancer in England every year, and it is thought a quarter of these could be prevented with the new method of testing.

HPV vaccine for all 12 and 13 year olds

Alongside the new screening, all children aged 12 or 13 and in year eight at school are being offered a vaccine to protect against HPV.

Currently, the national NHS HPV vaccination programme uses the vaccine Gardasil, which protects against the four types of HPV that cause most cases of cancer.

Last year researchers said cervical cancer could be effectively eliminated in most countries around the world by the end of the 21st century thanks to vaccination and improved screening.

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