Improvements to the Island’s cervical cancer screening programme will offer better outcomes for women, with the introduction of a new test which will find more of those who are at greater risk of cervical cancer.
The Isle of Man is to be one of the early adopters of human papilloma virus (HPV) primary screening, a new way of examining routine cervical screening samples. The updated screening programme for women aged 25 – 64, which will be introduced across England next year.
HPV is a common virus and most women get it at some point in their lives. There is no treatment but in most cases, infections are cleared by the woman’s immune system. Some types of HPV can cause abnormal cells in the cervix and these can be treated, especially if found early on.
It’s coming soon…
From 1 August 2018 cervical screening samples from Island patients will first be tested for HPV, as the majority of cervical cancers (99.7%) are caused by a persistent HPV infection. Under the current system, samples are screened for abnormal cells – using cytology – and only tested for HPV if an abnormality is detected. Testing for HPV first ‘flips’ the process. If HPV is found, it is a useful guide as to whether abnormal cells are present and further cytology can be carried out.
“The Jade Goody Effect”
The positive news comes at a time when cervical cancer has hit the headlines in UK media following the decline of the so-called “Jade Goody effect”, the number of smear tests being carried out in England hit a 20-year low.
After the reality star died of cervical cancer in 2009, nearly 500,000 extra women turned up for smear tests. In recent years there has been persistent decline in women booking tests.
What this means for Manx women
There will be no change for patients when they have their test. Letters inviting women for screening will be sent out in the normal way and the procedure for having the sample taken at the GP surgery will be exactly the same. Evidence suggests screening for HPV first is a more effective way to alert women they’re at risk of developing cervical cancer, ensuring further investigation and treatment is carried out at an early stage, to prevent the disease. Where no HPV is found women can be reassured they’re at very low risk of developing cervical cancer.
All women between the ages of 25 and 64 are eligible for a free cervical screening test every 3-5 years.
You can find out more about HPV Primary Screening at www.gov.im/cervicalscreening
Cover image credit: Zoe Buckman
Zoë Buckman is a multi-disciplinary artist best known for her politically charged sculptures, installations, and photographs.
Zoe Buckman’s ‘Champ’, a sculpture of female organs rendered in neon light with boxing gloves, encapsulates the theme of struggle and persistence.