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Wales first to roll out new 'more reliable' cervical screening test

Almost all cases of cervical cancer are caused by HPV. Credit: PA

New 'more reliable' and 'sensitive' cervical smear tests are being rolled out across Wales this week.

All smear tests in Wales will look for the presence of high-risk strain of the human papillomavirus (HPV) which causes 99.8 per cent of cervical cancers.

Cervical screening tests - also called smear tests - have previously looked for any cell changes on the cervix which may, or in some cases may not, develop into cervical cancer.

However, the new way of testing, which looks first for high-risk HPV, has been proven to be a more reliable and sensitive method to help prevent women from developing cervical cancer.

Almost all cases of cervical cancer are caused by HPV.

Wales is the first UK nation to fully adopt high-risk HPV testing as the first test done on every cervical screening sample.

160
women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in Wales every year.
35
It is the most common type of cancer in women under the age of 35.

It is being coordinated by Cervical Screening Wales, part of Public Health Wales.

Although there are many strains of HPV, only certain high-risk ones can cause cervical cancer. There is no treatment to get rid of HPV but for most women their immune system will eliminate the virus.

HPV can be passed on through any type of skin-to-skin sexual contact, including intimate touching, with a man or woman. You or your partner could have had HPV for some time without knowing about it. Regardless of whether you're currently in a sexual relationship or not, you may still have HPV.

– Louise Dunk, Cervical Screening Wales

Read more: Number of women not attending smear tests in Wales at a '10 year low'

Women aged 25 to 49 years are invited for a smear test every three years, and women aged 50 to 64 years are invited every five years.

Health Secretary, Vaughan Gething, says it will result in 'quicker treatment':

There are over 100 different types of HPV, but only around 13 types are associated with cancer and these are known as 'high-risk' types. The new test will look for the 13 known high risk HPV types, which cause 99.8% of cervical cancers.

The test will deliver significantly better quality testing and improved patient experience. There will also be more appropriate referrals to colposcopy services, resulting in quicker treatment and women being discharged back to routine surveillance more quickly.