England, Wales and Scotland have now introduced human papillomavirus (HPV) primary screening. Cervical screening (known as a smear test) had previously involved taking a small sample of cells and examining these under a microscope for abnormal changes – a process known as cytology. This process has now changed so that all samples will first be tested for HPV, which is the cause of almost all cases of cervical cancer. If HPV is detected, then the sample will also be sent for cytology testing. As HPV testing has a higher sensitivity than cytology1, its inclusion as first line in cervical screening is expected to prevent an hundreds of cases of cervical cancer each year2.
HPV myths and misconceptions
As the cervical cancer screening programme has moved towards first-line HPV testing, Roche Diagnostics wanted to ask women what they understand about HPV and see if there were any myths or misconceptions that need correcting in advance of the wider roll out of the new screening technology. Although the new screening programme has the potential to prevent hundreds of cervical cancers a year, this relies on women attending their cervical screening appointment1.
Know the facts
HPV is transmitted through skin to skin genital contact. It can be just one contact, once, and the virus can stay in the system for years. The human body will usually clear HPV infections on its own, however, on rare occasions, HPV infections will cause changes to cervical cells that may progress to cervical cancer. Regular screening for HPV is important to identify those at increased risk of developing cervical cancer.
If you have questions about cervical cancer screening (or smear tests as they are commonly known) or questions about your own healthcare, please contact your GP surgery or healthcare professional.
You can find out more about the cervical screening programme here.
For healthcare professionals please find more information by clicking here.
If you have questions or concerns about cervical cancer you can also contact: