Wednesday November 10,2010
By Victoria Fletcher, Health Editor
SMEAR tests for cervical cancer should be phased out for all women, a top expert said.
Instead a less frequent test should be used to look for signs of the HPV virus that triggers the illness.
And at the same time a vaccination programme could mean today’s schoolgirls will grow up to be almost immune to the cancer form.
Millions of women should no longer be given smear tests every three years for cervical cancer and need only have the virus test every six years, the expert said.
Women over 50 would see their appointments reduced from one every five years to just one per decade. Meanwhile young girls currently being vaccinated against the HPV virus would only need to have tests twice in their lifetimes.
Despite their use across the NHS, smear tests are no longer the most accurate way to predict cervical cancer.
Professor Peter Sasieni, a Cancer Research UK scientist at Queen Mary, University of London, believes the newer HPV test is more accurate and will eventually cost the NHS less. He said: “Smear tests should be phased out starting as soon as possible with this being completed in five years. What further research are we waiting for? It is clear there are a number of HPV tests which are as good as cytology (smear tests) and in the long run are better.”