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More accurate cervical cancer screening test to be introduced

The NHS is to introduce a more accurate test for cervical cancer which could help patients receive treatment earlier.

Women aged between 25 and 64 who are currently offered a smear test that can identify changes that could develop into cervical cancer will also be checked for Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), which has been strongly linked to the cancer.

The new test is expected to be available within the Scottish Cervical Screening Programme by 2019/20.

Health Secretary Shona Robison said it will help ensure early signs of cancer are identified and treated quickly.

Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women under the age of 35 and incidence has increased by 22% over the last decade.

Each year in the UK, more than 3,200 women are diagnosed and more than 890 lose their lives.

The disease can be prevented through screening, with treatment as a result of screening preventing eight out of 10 cervical cancers from developing.

However, uptake of screening is on a downward trend in Scotland with latest figures showing that just under 70% of eligible women attend screening, compared to 80% attending 10 years ago.

The new test, which has already been introduced in England, is being brought in following recommendations from the UK National Screening Committee (UKNSC).

Ms Robison said: “Cervical screening is an important health service that can reduce cases of cervical cancer and death. We must continue to invest in more accurate and accessible tests.

“I am pleased to announce that investment from our cancer strategy will be used to introduce this new test, which will help ensure the early signs of cervical cancer are identified and treated earlier.”

Robert Music, chief executive of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, said: “HPV testing as the primary cervical screening method has been shown to have a higher detection rate than the current screening programme. This provides a more reliable indicator of women who may be at greater risk of cervical cancer.

“It is positive to see the NHS in Scotland following advice from the UKNSC and changing to this more effective test which will reduce incidence of cervical cancer in Scotland and save lives.”

Cancer Research UK’s Gregor McNie said: “It’s a huge step forward that the Scottish Government is now introducing a first line HPV test to improve cervical screening.”

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