Vaccine advancements could mean one pap smear per lifetime

New advancements in the HPV vaccine could mean that only one pap smear per lifetime is required—rather than every 5 years

one pap smear per lifetime
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New advancements in the HPV vaccine could mean that people in the UK are only invited for one pap smear per lifetime, rather than every five years as is currently required.

Nobody enjoys a smear test, and having to get one every five years is an annoying, but vital event in most people's calendars. However, a leading scientist has now suggested that the frequency of these tests could be reduced as advances are made to the HPV vaccine.

Since 2008, the HPV vaccine has been offered to young girls between the ages of 11 and 13 in the UK. Research has shown that the effectiveness of this vaccination has cut the occurrence of cervical cancer by 90%.

Professor Peter Sasieni told Inside Health on BBC Radio 4 that based on the data they have accumulated and the development of the HPV vaccine, women and people with services in the UK may be able to have a smear test just once in a lifetime.

"Probably women could be screened at [age] 30 and 45, you might want to do it at 30, 40, and 55 so three times," said the Professor.

"There's a new vaccine which will be used in the UK from the next school year, which protects against even more types of the virus, and I think with that probably one screen would be enough, maybe two, over a lifetime," he said.

concept of uterus

(Image credit: Getty Images)

This is great news for those who are nervous about pap smears and are not comforted by the announcement that DIY smear tests could soon be available.

However, this could also pose a problem. In the UK, women over 45 are more likely to skip smear tests, despite the fact that half of the cervical cancer cases being diagnosed occur later in life. If only a few smear tests are needed in a lifetime, women could put off testing until it is too late.

Similarly, testing for cervical cancer for the first time at the age of 30 may be a point of contention for many people. At present, smear testing begins at the age of 25 in the UK but many groups exist that suggest testing should begin earlier at the age of 16. 

At the moment the suggestions about smear tests only occurring once in a lifetime are still hypothetical as a decision has yet to be officially made by the UK National Screening Committee.

"We really want to make those changes over the next couple of years, it is a big change [but] the vaccine has been so successful this makes perfect sense," concluded Professor Sasieni.

Laura Harman

Laura is a news writer for woman&home who primarily covers entertainment and celebrity news. Laura dabbles in lifestyle, royal, beauty, and fashion news, and loves to cover anything and everything to do with television and film. She is also passionate about feminism and equality and loves writing about gender issues and feminist literature.

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