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Public Health Wales have announced changes to the current routine cervical screening programme. Currently, people with a cervix between the ages 25 and 49 in Wales are invited to screening tests every three years.

The change announced in January, which brings Wales in line with the UK National Screening Committee recommendations, will reduce the frequency of cervical screenings to every five years for this age group and matches the time gap in screenings for those ages 50 to 64.

 

Why the Change in Frequency?

The scientific advice to move screenings to every five years was given due to an improved testing system: A new way of testing samples to detect human papilloma virus (HPV) has led to an increased accuracy in identifying those at risk to developing cervical cancer.

Thanks to the increased accuracy, screening intervals can be safely extended, and as part of the new programme, those with a cervix will be invited back for screening based on their risk, rather than age.

Alice Davies, Cancer Research UK’s health information manager, has said that the new programme is more accurate overall and removes unnecessary screenings whilst offering more frequent screenings to those at greater risk.

The change comes after research published in December shows the HPV vaccine, offered to girls and boys between the ages of 11 to 13, is cutting cervical cancer by nearly 90% in those vaccinated against the viruses.

 

Concerns Over the Changes 

The announcement has come under intense scrutiny, with an online petition calling for the reinstatement of the three year gap gathering more than 680,000 signatures.

Concerns over the changes are centralised around the view that an increased number of cancers may be missed due to a reduction in the frequency of testing.

Public Health Wales, in response to the online petition, stated that the new programme follows the evidence that extending the interval between cervical screenings is safe with the new testing system, and that increasing the time between smear tests will also reduce risks from screening.

However, they have recognised that they haven’t done enough to explain the changes to the public, and have caused unnecessary concern over the safety of the new programme.

 

Cancer Misdiagnosis Claims 

Receiving a cervical cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming for a patient and their family, but this news can be even more distressing if there has been a delay in discovering the illness.

Whilst the new programme is stated to be more accurate for identifying people at higher risk of developing cervical cancer, issues with delaying the diagnosis of cervical cancer may still persist.

If you are at all concerned about misdiagnosis claims, or to find out if you may be eligible for compensation, please read our full blog detailing Cancer Misdiagnosis Claims.

Alternatively, please contact us if you wish to discuss your situation.

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