Cervical cancer could be eliminated in England through vaccination and NHS screening, experts have said.
According to NHS England, there is potential to end the disease which kills 850 women a year in the UK.
The vaccine given to girls from the age of 12 is very effective against HPV infection.
Since the beginning of December, routine screening has been reoriented to test primarily for the virus. Only women who have HPV will have their smear sample checked for abnormal cells that are the precursor of cervical cancer.
Prof Peter Johnson, the national clinical director for cancer, claimed this new way of testing will save lives.
“Combined with the success of the HPV vaccine for both boys and girls, we hope that cervical cancer can be eliminated altogether by the NHS in England,” he said. “The chances of surviving cancer are at a record high, but there is always more we can do, as we continue to deliver our long-term plan.”
The NHS believes 600 cases of cervical cancer – roughly a quarter of the 2,500 cases detected in England – could be prevented by the new HPV screening test.
As the generations of young women given the vaccine get older, the numbers of cases of cervical cancer are expected to drop substantially.
Robert Music, the chief executive of the campaigning charity Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, told the Guardian that the day cervical cancer is a disease of the past is one we should be aiming to get to as soon as possible.
“Cervical screening is such an important test, but there are many reasons it can be difficult to attend. We must continue to understand and tackle these to ensure as many women benefit from this far more sensitive test and we save as many cancers diagnoses and lives as possible,” he added.