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Scotland and Wales consider increasing age for cervical cancer screening

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The UK National Screening Committee (NSC) has approved draft policy that recommends cervical cancer screening in Scotland and Wales should begin at 25 - in line with existing practice in England and Northern Ireland.

'The decision ... is based on strong evidence that cervical screening in women aged 20-24 is substantially less effective in preventing cancer,' the Committee said. Currently, screening is available from age 20 in Wales and Scotland.

Professor Julietta Patnick, director of the NHS Cancer Screening Programmes, said: 'Cervical abnormalities are common in women under the age of 25, but cervical cancer in this age group is very rare. In the vast majority of cases in these younger women, the abnormalities clear up on their own.

'If abnormalities are found, the follow-up investigation and colposcopy can increase the likelihood of the woman having a pre-term delivery during pregnancy, which can endanger both the baby and mother.'

The policy is now under consolation, and you can take part here.

Meanwhile, a pilot programme to assess the value of using HPV testing as the primary screen for cervical disease, rather than the cytology test, is to be developed after being recommended by the NSC.

It will aim to establish whether using HPV testing as the primary screen for cervical disease results in better outcomes for women, while minimising over-treatment and anxiety.

The pilot, which will be developed by the NHS Cervical Screening Programme, will also look and whether it is practical to roll out such a system nationally.

Dr Anne Mackie, director of the National Screening Committee (NSC), said: 'Part of the remit of the UK NSC is to look at how new tests, of proven effectiveness, can best be introduced to existing programmes.

'This is a good example of a new approach that could further improve an already successful screening programme. HPV testing may better indicate which women are at risk of cervical cancer.'

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