PAP SMEAR BREAKTHROUGH
MILLIONS of women could be spared the ordeal of having cervical smear tests after the age of 55, a major study suggests.
At the moment British women are invited for regular cervical screening between the ages of 25 and 64.
But research indicates that a sensitive new test being brought in by the National Health Service could make testing past the age of 55 unnecessary. Women who had a negative test at 55 had only a 0.05% chance of developing cervical cancer in later life, results published in the Lancet medical journal concluded.
The study, led by McGill University in Canada, used data from 200 000 women to calculate lifetime risk of cervical cancer.
British officials confirmed that scientists on the government’s screening committee, which advises the NHS, would look at the findings. Experts, however, stressed that more research was needed, and said women over 55 should continue to attend their screening appointments.
At the moment women are invited for cervical cancer screening 12 times between the ages of 25 and 64: every three years until the age of 50 and then every five years.
Screening takes place until retirement because cervical cancer commonly appears in old age. But the McGill scientists found screening could be stopped earlier thanks to the roll-out of a new way of testing for HPV – the virus which causes 95% of cases of cervical cancer – which means doctors can be more confident women are at low risk. | Daily