Monday 19 March 2018

Move to HPV testing would mean less cervical cancer deaths health watchdog suggests

Cervical screening can help prevent cancer, by catching cell changes early
Cervical screening can help prevent cancer, by catching cell changes early

Daniel O'Connor

Women should be screened for cervical cancer once every five years instead of three years, the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has recommended.

Based on a new assessment carried out by the independent group, a change in the method in which women are screened for cervical cancer would provide better accuracy in detecting precancerous abnormalities and early stage invasive cancer.

The newly proposed screening method would see women first tested for HPV (human papillomavirus), an infection associated with almost all invasive cervical cancers, followed by a liquid based cytology test.

HIQA state that switching to this new method would result in a 30pc drop in cases of cervical cancer and deaths stemming from it.

“Compared with the current screening strategy, primary HPV screening is a better test which allows all women who participate in cervical screening to become aware of their current HPV status and those who are at higher risk of cervical cancer to be picked up earlier,” Máirín Ryan, HIQA Director of Health Technology Assessment said.

Reducing the amount of screenings a woman will need in her lifetime by two, the new screening method could also save the whole CervicalCheck population an estimated €35 million between 2018 and 2025.

“Implementation of our advice to CervicalCheck has the potential to increase benefits for all women and lower costs compared with the current screening programme, freeing resources for use elsewhere in the healthcare system,” Ryan added.

While the first person vaccinated against HPV-16 and HPV-18 will become eligible for screening next year, HIQA has recommended that vaccinated women are screened every five years as well.

These recommendations will now be submitted to CervicalCheck, Ireland’s National Cervical Screening Programme and the Minister for Health to inform decision-making about the screening programme.

An average of 88 women die from invasive cervical cancer each year, according to the Central Statistics Office.

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