The NHS in Scotland is to introduce a more accurate test for cervical cancer that will save lives by allowing earlier detection and treatment.
Women aged 25 to 64 who are offered a smear test will also be checked for human papilloma virus (HPV), which has been strongly linked to the cancer.
The new test is expected to be available on the Scottish Cervical Screening Programme by 2019-20. Its introduction will be funded through the Scottish Government’s Cancer Strategy.
Welcoming the announcement, Falkirk West MSP Michael Matheson said: “This is an important investment in a crucial health service. Cervical screening already saves about 5000 lives in the UK every year – because early detection and treatment can prevent the cancer from developing – and this new test promises even better results.
“However, there’s been a downward trend in the uptake of screening in Scotland over the past decade, with only about seven out of 10 eligible women attending. Hopefully this improved screening will help raise awareness and encourage more women to take this potentially life-saving test.”
Robert Music, chief executive of the Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust charity, added: “HPV testing as the primary cervical screening method has been shown to have a higher detection rate than the current screening programme. This provides a more reliable indicator of women who may be at greater risk of cervical cancer.
“It is positive to see the NHS in Scotland following advice from the UK National Screening Committee and changing to this more effective test, which will reduce incidence of cervical cancer in Scotland and save lives.”
Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women under 35, with the incidence increasing by 22% over the last decade. Each year, more than 3200 women in the UK are diagnosed with the disease and some 890 lose their lives.