Northern Ireland Adopts New HPV Screening Programme – A new improved primary HPV cervical screening programme is being rolled out across Northern Ireland.
It checks for an infection called HPV – the cause of most cervical cancers.
Presence of the infection is the earliest sign that a woman may be at risk and is therefore better for indicating if treatment is required.
Dr Joanne McClean, director of public health at the Public Health Agency (PHA), described the move as a “significant milestone”.
From Monday, the most significant difference is that all smear tests will now be checked for the high-risk types of HPV in the first instance.
This removes the need for all samples to also undergo cytology which is time consuming and clogs up the screening system.
What is HPV?
Almost all cases of cervical cancer are caused by a virus called human papillomavirus (HPV).
It is common, with about eight out of 10 people catching it at some time in their lives.
It is mainly spread by skin-to skin contact during sexual activity.
HPV in the cervix happens through sexual contact.
In a small number of cases, HPV in the cervix can develop into a persistent infection.
Persistent infection with high-risk HPV can cause the cells in your cervix to change – these changes can develop into cancer.
Signs and symptoms of HPV include:
- Vaginal bleeding after sex, between periods or after the menopause
- Vaginal discharge that is not normal
- Persistent back or tummy pains
- Pain during sex