Your Private GP and Sexual Health Clinic in Canary Wharf
Dr Wayne Cottrell:
Cervical cancer affects and is diagnosed in almost 3,000 women in the UK each year. The NHS has a very effective screening program in place that can detect early cancerous changes, and as a result, death rates have fallen. The problem is that the NHS will only offer screening every 3 years and will only start screening women after the age of 25. In addition, the NHS screening program does not offer routine HPV screening. I recommend HPV testing for all my sexually active female patients from the age of 18.
Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) infection, one of the high-risk types, has been shown to be an important factor in the development of cervical cancer. HPV DNA is detected in virtually all cases of cervical cancer (90%), although not all factors that play a role are yet known. The most aggressive types of HPV are 16 and 18. It is possible to have the HPV infection for many years whilst still having normal smear results. This is why I recommend HPV screening in addition to regular smears.
Just having HPV doesn’t mean that you will develop cancer, but if the infection persists, either because your immune system cannot get rid of it, or if you are repeatedly infected, it can then lead to pre-cancerous changes in the cells of the cervix and eventually cervical cancer.
- Sex from an early age
- Multiple sexual partners
- Long-term contraceptive pill use
- A weakened immune system
- Vaginal bleeding (between periods or during/after sex)
- Smelly vaginal discharge
- Discomfort during sex
- Vaginal bleeding after menopause
I recommend that women have HPV testing in addition to regular cervical screening. If you test positive for one of the more dangerous HPV strains (16 or 18), then I recommend yearly screening. This would allow for any abnormal cells to be detected early. If you have an abnormal smear, the cell changes will be graded as borderline, moderate or severe.
REDUCING YOUR RISK
- Using a condom during sex will give you some protection from HPV.
- HPV testing
- Regular smears
- HPV vaccination. This is a preventative vaccine against the 9 most common strains of HPV