Changes to cervical screening in Wales
Public Health Wales has this week announced changes to the Cervical Screening Wales programme. We are aware that the announcement of these changes has caused some worry. Here we explain more about the changes that are being made and why, and also share sources of information and support.
Cervical screening has become more accurate and effective, with HPV primary screening now used in Wales, England and Scotland. This means samples are tested first for HPV, and evidence shows this is the best way to find out who is at higher risk of developing cervical cell changes or cervical cancer. This screening method will save more lives by identifying those at greater risk of cancer earlier.
The UK National Screening Committee (a body of scientists which makes recommendations to UK ministers and the NHS) has therefore recommended extending the routine screening interval for people with a cervix aged 25 - 49 if human papillomavirus (HPV) is not found in their next cervical screening (smear) test.
The change came into effect on 1 January 2022, bringing the advice for this age group in line with the screening interval for those aged 50-64.
Before recommending this change, the Committee reviewed the science and evidence and concluded it is safe to do this.
Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust explains: “HPV makes cells change slowly, over many years. If abnormal cells in the cervix develop between tests, they can be picked up at the next test. Cervical cancer is a slow growing cancer and takes many years to develop. It may be useful to remember that many cell changes and HPV infections will clear on their own and this will help us to avoid unnecessary tests and treatments”.
Individuals already receiving care because HPV was found in their screening sample or abnormal cells were identified will not be affected by the change until they complete their follow up tests and return to routine recall after testing negative for HPV (HPV not found).
If you have any questions or concerns about the change in the routine screening interval, you can contact Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust Helpline on 0808 802 8000 or access information on their website: https://www.jostrust.org.uk/information/cervical-screening/results
If you have questions about cervical screening invitations, your results or any symptoms you are experiencing, speak to your GP.
You can also read this helpful blog by Jo’s Trust which explains this change in more depth.