Cervical screening tests, also known as smear tests, will now screen for the human papillomavirus (HPV) – the main cause of cervical cancer.
Since Monday 16 March 2020, those going for cervical screening in the Outer Hebrides will receive a more sensitive test which will screen for HPV and help ensure cell changes are identified and treated earlier.
The new test is more effective at identifying those at risk of developing cervical cancer. This means women who don’t have HPV will be invited for a cervical screening test every five years, regardless of their age.
Chief Medical Officer Catherine Calderwood said “Introducing HPV testing as part of the main smear test will improve health outcomes for women and ultimately save more lives.
“The way the test is carried out will not change – so it’s important women still attend their cervical screening appointment when invited. It’s normal to feel anxious, but going for your test is the best way of preventing cervical cancer.
“It’s important that those who have been vaccinated for HPV still go for screening. This is because the vaccine does not protect against all types of HPV that can cause cancer. It’s the combination of the HPV vaccination and cervical screening that should eventually wipe out cervical cancer in Scotland.
“Women who are found to have HPV will be closely monitored and treated if required, meaning HPV is extremely unlikely to develop into cervical cancer.”
Chief Executive of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, Robert Music said “We are fortunate to have cervical screening as it can stop cervical cancer before it starts and testing for HPV means we can identify those at risk much faster.
“This will help to prevent even more diagnoses. It’s important that women understand the changes to the programme, such as moving to testing every five years, and that they feel comfortable with their results.
“Many more women will now be told they have HPV and we must tackle the fear and confusion that exists around this really common virus.”
Dr. Maggie Watts, Director of Public Health and Screening Co-ordinator for NHS Western Isles, added "Although it’s the best way of preventing cervical cancer, over one in four women in Scotland (26.9%) don’t attend their cervical screening test when invited. In 2018-19, 26.3% of women in the Outer Hebrides did not attend for cervical screening
"There are many reasons for this, and our staff are trained to help support those who feel worried or anxious.
"We urge all those eligible for cervical screening in the Outer Hebrides to not ignore your invite when it arrives by post. And if you missed your last appointment, contact your GP practice to find a time that suits."
NHS Western Isles has also been working with Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, Western Isles Cancer Care Initiative (WICCI), Barra Cancer Support group and the Uist Cancer support group, to look at ways to encourage more women to attend their cervical screening appointment (also known as the smear test).
It has met with women in various venues (Sgoil Lionacleit, Harris Hub and Stornoway sports centre) with information to help explain what cervical screening is about and identifying what gets in the way of women attending their appointment. However, more women are being asked their views and women aged 25 to 64 are invited to complete the brief survey at https://bit.ly/2vxiLVi
To find out more about cervical screening visit https://www.nhsinform.scot/stopcervicalcancer