Length of time between cervical cancer screening tests extended in Wales

The change affects those aged between 25-50 and brings the advice for this age group in line with those aged 50-64. Credit: PA Images

The number of years people aged between 25 and 50 wait between tests for cervical cancer is increasing in Wales.

The change means that women and people with a cervix under 50 who do not have Human papillomavirus (HPV) cells found at a screening will now wait five years until another test, rather than three.

Health officials said the length of time between tests is being extended because of the success of more effective HPV testing.

Heather Lewis, Consultant in Public Health for Cervical Screening Wales explains: “The HPV test we now use in Wales is more effective at identifying people at higher risk of developing cell changes which can cause cervical cancer.

“The evidence shows that it is therefore safe to extend the time between cervical screening tests for people who do not have HPV identified.”

HPV testing was introduced in Wales in 2018 and almost nine out of ten results show no high-risk HPV.

HPV is a common virus that most people will come into contact with at some point during their lives. One or more high-risk types of HPV are present in over 99.8 per cent of cervical cancers.

Louise Dunk, Head of Programme for Cervical Screening Wales at Public Health Wales said: “It is a really positive development that this more effective test will mean that women and people with a cervix, who test negative for HPV, now only need to attend their testing every five years, rather than three."

Ms Dunk added that going for a screening, often called a smear test, could save your life.

“By making an appointment you have the chance to prevent cervical cancer from developing, or picking it up at an early stage when it is more treatable," she explained.

There are around 160 cases of cervical cancer diagnosed every year in Wales and it is the most common cancer in women under the age of 35.

Cell changes found through regular cervical screening can be treated to prevent a cancer developing.