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Scotland’s NHS is to introduce a more accurate test for cervical cancer which could help speed up treatment for patients.
The new plans mean that women who are offered a routine smear test for cervical cancer will also be checked for Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), which has been strongly linked to the cancer.
The new tests were introduced in the NHS in England after a successful trial in 2016. They follow recommendations from the UK National Screening Committee and will be given to all women aged between 25 and 64 who are offered a smear test.
The decision comes after latest figures showed that uptake of screening is on a downward trend in Scotland, with just under 70 per cent of eligible women attending a test, compared to 80 per cent the previous decade.
Treatment as a result of screening prevents eight out of 10 cervical cancers from developing and saves around 5,000 lives in the UK annually.
The new test is expected to be available to patients by 2019-20.
Shona Robison, Health Secretary, said: “Cervical screening is an important health service that can reduce cases of cervical cancer and death. We must continue to invest in more accurate and accessible tests.
"I am pleased to announce that investment from our cancer strategy will be used to introduce this new test, which will help ensure the early signs of cervical cancer are identified and treated earlier."
Robert Music, chief executive of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, said: “It is positive to see the NHS in Scotland following advice from the UKNSC and changing to this more effective test which will reduce incidence of cervical cancer in Scotland and save lives.
"We look forward to working with the screening programme to ensure this change is made as smoothly as possible, communicated effectively to the public, and that the workforce in particular is supported to adapt to the changes."
Gregor McNie, Cancer Research UK, said: “Testing first for the human papilloma virus will help prevent more cervical cancers, as it can pick up the cancer-causing infection before any abnormalities could develop in the cells.
"The need for improvements to the cervical screening programme was set out in the Scottish government's cancer strategy published last year, so it's good to see progress being made."
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