Women in Wales will benefit from a new cervical screening test that reduces the need for repeat smears.
From May 31, women found to have very low level cell changes during their screening (smear test) will only be referred to colposcopy clinics if their test shows that they have the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) virus.
HPV is a very common virus that most women will have at some point in their lives. Although it usually clears without symptoms or treatment, some (high risk) types of HPV are linked to cervical cancer.
Women with minor cell changes on their smear test who do not have high risk HPV will not need to be referred to a colposcopy clinic for further tests, but will simply return to having three- or five-yearly smear tests, depending on their age.
Those with both minor cell changes and HPV will be referred straight to a colposcopy clinic without the need for repeat smear tests first.
Dr Louise Pickford, All Wales Coordinator for Cervical Screening Wales said: “These changes are good news for women in Wales, who will now either be referred straight to colposcopy clinics or back to the routine smear testing programme. The new process will cut down on the number of women having early repeat smear tests, which can cause a lot of anxiety.
“It’s important to remember that cervical screening isn’t a test for cancer, but for abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix, which can often be treated before they become cancer.
“Regular screening can cut the risk of getting cervical cancer by 75% so it is important that if you are invited you take up the opportunity to be screened.”
Cervical Screening Wales is part of Public Health Wales and offers smear tests to women aged between 25 and 64 living in Wales. Women under the age of 50 are offered screening every three years, while women over 50 are offered screening every five years.
Women who are invited for cervical screening should make an appointment with their GP or sexual health clinic for a smear test, which involves taking a small sample of cells from the cervix for analysis in a laboratory.
Cervical cancer often has no symptoms in the early stages and so it is important to attend screening appointments on time.
The most common symptom of cervical cancer is bleeding from the vagina after sex, between periods or after the menopause. Women who experience this should see their GP immediately even if they have received a normal smear test result..
For more information about screening go to www.cervicalscreeningwales.wales.nhs.uk