Routine cervical screening interval extended in Wales
Cervical Screening Wales has confirmed it is extending the routine screening interval for those aged 25 – 49 from three to five years, if Human papillomavirus (HPV) is not found in their cervical screening (smear) test.
This change follows a recommendation from the UK National Screening Committee in 2019, bringing the advice for the age group in line with the screening interval for those aged 50-64.
This extension came into effect on 1 January 2022 and means that result letters sent from this date will advise recipients that their next appointment will follow in five years, if certain conditions apply.
HPV testing was introduced in Wales in 2018 and close to 90% of results show no high-risk HPV.
Heather Lewis, Consultant in Public Health for Cervical Screening Wales said: “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 is a very common virus that most people will come into contact with at some time during their lives. One or more high-risk types of HPV are present in over 99.8% of cervical cancers.
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.
Although screening is not a test for cancer, sometimes the test picks up early cancers which are easier to treat.
The cervical screening programme’s main aims are:
- To reduce the number of cases of cervical cancer (incidence) by picking up cell changes before they become a cancer
- To reduce the number of deaths from cervical cancer (mortality) by stopping cancer from developing, or picking it up at an early stage
- To reduce the effects of cancer or cancer treatments on health (morbidity) by stopping cancer from developing, or picking it up at an early stage when it is much easier to treat
For more information on cervical screening and HPV, visit Cervical Screening Wales.