2. Understanding HPV in screening
Cervical screening is one of 3 cancer screening programmes in the UK. It is offered to most women, some trans men and non-binary people with a cervix, aged 25 to 64.
Screening involves testing apparently healthy people without symptoms. It can save lives by finding cancers at an early stage, or even in the case of cervical cancer, preventing them.
In the UK, cervical screening is done using HPV primary testing, which tests the sample of cervical cells for HPV first. The laboratory will look to see if you have a high-risk type of the virus. If high-risk HPV is found, the laboratory will test your sample for abnormal cell changes.
But last year, a study we funded revealed a gap in many women’s understanding of HPV and its role in cervical screening, which could impact on how many people choose to attend their cervical screening appointments.
3. 3- vs 5-year screening intervals
In England and Northern Ireland, if you’re eligible for cervical screening you’ll be invited every 3 years. However, in Scotland and Wales, you may be invited every 5 years if you’re lower risk. So why the difference?
In short, it’s thanks to research.
In 2022, a study confirmed that offering cervical screening using HPV testing effectively prevents cervical cancer without the need for as regular screening.
Alongside the results of previous research, the study showed that the time interval between cervical screens can be safely extended for those who test negative for HPV. Those who are higher risk will be invited more often. We’re hoping to see England and Northern Ireland follow suit.