As we know, HPV or human papilloma virus is the cause of the vast majority of cervical cancers, as well as causing genital warts and being associated with other cancers too. This is the reason that girls are currently vaccinated aged 12 or 13 against this virus, and the vaccine is to be offered to boys too at some point in 2019 onwards. This is all very good news and will reduce the number of cases of cervical cancer greatly.
However the vast majority of cases does not mean every case and there are definitely patients who develop pre cancers and cancers of their cervix who do not have an HPV infection and never have had.
These are the women who should be a little sceptical about new plans within the health service. The scheme which is being rolled out means that all smear test samples will be screened for the presence of HPV. If this is absent then the sample will NOT be examined further; the cells from the cervix will only be reported on if the HPV screen is positive.
There is an acceptance within that framework that those women who are HPV negative but with cervical abnormalities will be missed. It is for each woman to consider for herself whether that seems acceptable. Clearly the health service has to use resources wisely and make a judgement about value for money on a population wide scale but as individual women this does not always feel comfortable or thorough.
Within our practice we use a lab which examines every smear sample under the microscope and reports on any abnormality of cells; HPV screening is automatically undertaken in the presence of any detected abnormality.
Individual GPs cannot be blamed for the change in policy but change there has been and it will prove to the detriment of a few women.
Smear tests are undertaken within Private GP Services at FACEmed by female doctors and results available after 1 week. For more information, see our Ovarian Screen page.