The NHS has promised to end cervical cancer by 2040, but screenings are still as important as ever

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The NHS has promised to end cervical cancer by 2040, but screenings are still as important as ever


The modern screening test is looking for possible presence of certain higher risk strains of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), not for cervical cancer itself. If HPV is found, then the cells in the test are examined for possible signs of pre-cancerous cells, which, if found are very simply treatable in nearly all cases.

It is just as important to have routine smear testing even if you have had the HPV vaccine. It is likely that the chance of ever having cervical cancer will be much lower in those who have had the vaccine, but some types of cervical precancerous changes will not be prevented by the vaccines and are just as treatable if detected.

Cervical cancer is treated differently depending on what grade and stage it’s at. If cells are found in your cervix that are abnormal but haven’t turned cancerous, doctors can use different treatments to kill or get rid of them. This doesn’t usually hurt, and is sometimes done by a laser or small electric current being applied to the affected area.

If cells have become cancerous but the cancer is found early on, it may be possible to remove part or all of the cervix, but keeping the uterus, so that there may be the possibility of future pregnancies. Depending on the stage of the cancer, a hysterectomy may be the recommended treatment, with possible radiotherapy to kill any cancerous cells that may have started to spread. If the cancer is more advanced then you will be offered radiotherapy, and maybe a combination of chemotherapy and surgery.”

What are the cervical cancer survival rates?

“Survival statistics are available for each stage of cervical cancer in England according to Cancer Research UK. These figures are for people diagnosed between 2013 and 2017.

Stage 1
Almost 95 out of 100 people (around 95%) will survive their cancer for 5 years or more after diagnosis.

Stage 2
Almost 70 out of 100 people (almost 70%) will survive their cancer for 5 years or more after diagnosis.

Stage 3
Around 15 out of 100 people (around 15%) will survive their cancer for 5 years or more after being diagnosed.

Stage 4
Around 15 out of 100 people (around 15%) will survive their cancer for 5 years or more after being diagnosed.”

Can you get the HPV vaccine later in life?

If you haven’t yet received the HPV vaccine you may be wondering: is it too late?

“Some adults ages 27 through 45 years who missed the vaccination might choose to get the HPV vaccine after speaking with their GP about their risk for new HPV infections and possible benefits of vaccination for them,” says Patel.

Additionally, if you haven’t received the vaccine, it’s vital to attend your regular cervical screenings. In fact, even if you have had the vaccine, screenings remain essential.

“Because the HPV vaccine does not protect against all types of HPV that can cause cervical cancer, it’s important that all girls who receive the HPV vaccine also have regular cervical screening once they reach the age of 25,” she says.

Can you get rid of HPV?

As Patel explains, most people are infected with one of the hundreds of types of HPV at some point in their life.

“There is no treatment for the virus itself,” she says. “However, there are treatments for the health problems that HPV can cause.”

Has the way they test for HPV and cervical cancer changed?

Yes, the test has changed in the last three years.

“The new test is known as HPV primary screening and is more accurate at detecting who is at higher risk of developing cervical cancer,” says Patel. “This means the intervals for those not at high risk can be safely extended from 3 to 5 years.”

Can you test for HPV at home?

“There are at home test kits available and NHS England carried out a trial where they offered women who were overdue their smear tests kits to carry out smear tests in the privacy and convenience of their own homes,” says Patel.

However, it is advised that you attend in-person screenings with your GP wherever possible as the trial is a new one.

If you have questions, concerns or are affected by cervical cancer or cell changes, contact Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust for support.



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