Girls may only need cervical cancer screening twice in their lifetime if they have the cervical cancer vaccination, an expert said today.
The vaccine protects against key strains of the sexually-transmitted infection human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes most cases of cervical cancer.
This type of cancer should become a “rare disease” thanks to the introduction of the vaccine, said Professor Peter Sasieni, from Queen Mary, University of London.
Girls who have the jab when they are 12 or 13 would only need testing for the disease when they are 30 and 45, he said.
Prof Sasieni suggests the current smear test programme, which sees women invited for screening every three to five years, could be replaced with HPV testing.
The HPV test picks up 13 strains of the disease, which account for virtually all cervical cancer cases.
It typically takes over 10 years for a cancer to develop after HPV infection. Research shows that cancer caused by HPV types not prevented by the current vaccines take even longer.
“If you don’t have one of these 13 types of HPV then your chance of getting cervical cancer in the next 10 years is really incredibly low,” Prof Sasieni said. “You would capture virtually everybody with HPV testing. Vaccinated women would only need to be screened when they are 30 and 45.”
Dr Lesley Walker, Cancer Research UK’s director of cancer information, said: “HPV vaccination has been a huge step towards reducing the number of women that will be diagnosed with cervical cancer in future years. And the very high uptake of the vaccine in the UK has been a real success story.”
“Around eight out of 10 sexually-active women will contract HPV at some point in their lives.
The infection clears itself up within two years in some 80 per cent of cases but women are at high risk of re-infection.
More than 2,800 women a year in the UK are diagnosed with cervical cancer and almost 1,000 die from it every year.