Is The End In Sight For The Five-Yearly Smear Test?

10/11/2010 10:26 | Updated 22 May 2015

That sinking feeling you get when you open the letter that says it's time for your next cervical smear test could be a thing of the past. And it's all thanks to the recent introduction of the HPV vaccine - the jab that protects against the most common strains of the HPV virus that cause more than 90% of all cases of cervical cancer.

HPV vaccine could make cervical cancer rareThe HPV vaccine could help make cervical cancer rare. Photo: Stock.xchng, Leonardini

According to Professor Peter Sasieni, a Cancer Research UK expert at the University of London, girls aged 12 and 13 who are having the jab now may only need two smear tests in their lifetime - one when they're 30 and another at 45.

Instead of the current type of smear testing that screens for early signs of cervical cancer, the NHS should adopt a newer method called HPV testing that screens for the HPV virus, says Professor Sasieni. If that happened, even women who haven't had the jab would be able to halve their number of smear tests to around six during their lifetime.

Now that sounds like a good idea. Smear tests, after all, aren't exactly the most fun you can have in 10 minutes. But given the fact that cervical cancer kills around three young women every day, those 10 minutes could well save your life.

And in the future, thanks to the fact that the uptake of the jab in schools has been highly successful, cervical cancer could become a rare disease, the professor claims.

Do you always keep your appointment for every smear test? And do you know what signs to look out for where breast cancer is concerned?

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