Doctors have said that cervical cancer could be eliminated with improved screening and NHS vaccines.
Hundreds of lives could be saved every year thanks to a more sensitive type of cervical detection, which has recently been implemented throughout the health service.
A quarter of the 2,500 new cases of cervical cancer in England each year could be prevented with the test, which causes smear test samples to be checked first to detect human papillomavirus (HPV).
HPV, a common infection that is usually transmitted through sexual or skin-to-skin contact, causes almost all cases of cervical cancer.
So far, samples have been examined and those that showed possible cell changes were analyzed for HPV.
But now this has been changed, with the cells tested for the first time to detect HPV infection, and only those that have the virus tested for abnormal cells.
This means that any sign of infection can be detected at an earlier stage before the cancer continues to develop.
Research has also shown that the new method detects many more cases of precancerous lesions than the previous one.
Along with the new test, all children ages 12 and 13 in the eighth school year are offered a vaccine to protect themselves against HPV.
Professor Peter Johnson, national clinical director for cancer, said: “Screening is one of the most effective forms of protection against cervical cancer and there is no doubt that this new form of testing will save lives. It is vitally important that all eligible people attend their screening appointments to stay safe.
“Combined with the success of the HPV vaccine for boys and girls, we hope that the NHS in England can completely eliminate cervical cancer. The chances of surviving cancer are at a record level, but there is always more we can do, as we continue to deliver our long-term Plan. “
Because cervical cancer often shows no symptoms in the early stages, it is “especially important” for people to attend their tests and for eligible people to get vaccinated against HPV, he added.
Last year, only seven out of ten eligible women ages 25 to 64 were examined, and one million did not attend their appointment.
Regarding jab, 83.8% of girls completed the two-dose HPV vaccination course in 2017/18, compared with 83.1% in the previous year. Data on children are not yet available.
Robert Music, from Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, urged women to attend their screening.
He added: “The day that cervical cancer is a disease of the past is one that we should aim to reach as soon as possible.”
“The cervical exam is such an important test, but there are many reasons why it can be difficult to attend.
“We must continue to understand them and address them to ensure that as many women benefit from this much more sensitive test and that we save as many cancer diagnoses and lives as possible.”
A cervical exam for Joanna Gray, 30, of Manchester, found HPV and abnormal cells.
After receiving everything clear, she is grateful that he was caught so early.
“The hospital doctor told me that if I had left this for another three years, then it could have been very, very different,” he said.
“I think it’s surprising that smear tests prevent cervical cancer before it even has a chance to start.”