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Cervical cancer jab women will 'only need three smears'

From BBC - November 9, 2017

Women vaccinated against human papilloma virus (HPV) - thought to cause about 99% of cervical cancers - may only need three smear tests in their lifetime, a new study suggests.

Since 2008, the HPV vaccine has been offered to girls aged 11 to 13.

Reported cases of HPV have fallen sharply since then.

A team from Queen Mary University of London found that screenings at age 30, 40 and 55 would offer the same benefit to these young women as the current 12.

Prof Peter Sasieni, the lead author of the study, said cutting the number of smear tests for vaccinated women would make sense and save money.

"These women are far less likely to develop cervical cancer so they do not need such stringent routine checking as those at a higher risk," he said.

"This decision would free up resources for where they are needed most. The change in the screening system is a unique opportunity to reassess how often women are invited for cervical screens during their lifetimes."

'Great news'

The study, published in the International Journal of Cancer and funded by Cancer Research UK, comes ahead of changes being planned to the screening programme in England for 2019 and similar adjustments in Scotland and Wales.

At the moment, labs test for abnormalities in cells taken in a smear test but the new tests will check for the presence of HPV first and only check for abnormal cells if the virus is found.

The study says that when the new HPV testing first comes in, unvaccinated women should only need seven screenings in their lifetime, instead of 12.

Dr Julie Sharp, head of health information at Cancer Research UK said it was "great news" for women.

"While we hope to see these improvements to the screening programme in the future, it's important that women continue to take up invitations for cervical screening."

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