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Local charity enables improved cervical screening test

04 November 2019

Logo saying cervical screening is empowering

A local charity has provided £44,000 in funding to allow Jersey women to benefit sooner than expected from a new screening test that will prevent more cases of cervical cancer.

The new test, known as ‘HPV primary screening’, is being rolled out for use across specialist laboratories in England. Charitable funding, donated by Jersey Cancer Relief, has enabled Health and Community Services (HCS) to implement the new test for women in Jersey sooner than originally anticipated.

The charity is paying the extra costs of using the new test for two years, after which HCS will meet all of the costs involved. Compared to the previously used test, HPV primary screening ensures early signs of cervical disease are spotted and treated earlier. The new test also provides women with their test result sooner.

The previously used screening test involved a woman’s sample being examined in a specialist laboratory using cytology. This meant the sample was examined first under a microscope to detect abnormal cells that might develop into cancer. If abnormal cells were found, a human papillomavirus (HPV) test was then used as a secondary measure to determine which women needed to undergo further investigation. However, it was widely recognised that the cytology test might occasionally miss some abnormal cells; this was because they sometimes looked similar to normal cells. In addition, normal cells could occasionally be misdiagnosed as abnormal.

Medical Advancements

In recent years, scientific and medical advancements, plus increased knowledge about the role that human papillomavirus (HPV) has in causing cervical cancer, has led to the new HPV primary screening test being developed. From now on, every cervical screening sample taken in Jersey will undergo HPV screening as the first test.

Testing first for HPV will prevent more cervical cancers. This is because the HPV primary screening test can detect the cancer-causing infection before abnormalities develop in the cells. In short, the new test ensures early signs of cervical disease are spotted and treated earlier. National experts predict that HPV primary screening, once fully rolled out in England, will lead to a 20 per cent decrease in the overall number of cervical cancer cases.

Adrian O’Keeffe, Pathology Laboratory Manager at Jersey’s General Hospital said: "Women in Jersey may not have realised that their cervical screening samples are sent for examination to a highly specialised NHS laboratory.  Until fairly recently, the cytology test was the best method that such specialist labs had available to them. Now it’s been superseded by HPV primary screening and we wanted to access this more accurate test for women in Jersey. 

"We’ve been negotiating with the NHS laboratory that receives our screening samples to use the newer HPV primary screening method, however, like many new scientific advancements, it’s more expensive. Jersey Cancer Relief funding means we’ve been able to implementthis very latest method sooner than we’d expected."

Use of the new test for cervical screening was implemented in Jersey on 16 September.

Dr Linda Diggle, Head of Preventive Programmes, said: "This new HPV primary screening test is a breakthrough in the way women are tested for cervical disease. It’s a more accurate test that detects the early signs of cervical disease, which means treatment can be given earlier.

"In addition, the new test means women will get their test result returned much quicker. In the past women may have waited up to two months for their result. We’re now seeing most results coming back within two to three weeks and this will undoubtedly help reduce the anxiety of waiting for your cervical screening result."

Anne Pryke, Chair of Jersey Cancer Relief said "We rely on generous donations and fundraising efforts to support people and families dealing with cancer. Our aim is to help wherever there is a need. When we saw an opportunity to help prevent cervical cancer, we were pleased to support Health and Community Services in introducing this improved screening test for women in Jersey."  

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