It has emerged that the HPV vaccine has led to dramatic reductions in cervical cancer, and there is now evidence that those who got it may only need one smear test in their lifetime.
According to leading cancer prevention scientist, the academic director of King’s Clinical Trials Unit Professor Peter Sasieni, the screening programme for cervical cancer could be changed due to the positive results of the HPV vaccine.
He told BBC Radio 4: “This is really exciting…. (The HPV vaccine) protects against even more types of the virus, and I think with that probably one screen would be enough, maybe two, over a lifetime.”
The BBC states that nearly all cases of cervical cancer are caused by HPV, or human papillomavirus, and there are more than 100 types of these.
The virus is spread through close skin-to-skin contact, so the HPV vaccine is ideally given before a person is sexually active. The rollout in Ireland is given to children, the majority of those being girls aged at the time they go into first year.
A study last year found that the HPV vaccine has so far prevented hundreds of women from developing cervical cancer and thousands from getting pre-cancerous changes to cells.
With this being the first documented proof that the vaccine programme works in saving lives, the study, which was funded by Cancer Research UK, found that cervical cancer cases in women who got vaccinated at ages 12 and 13, now in their 20s, are 87% lower than those without it.
Researchers, whose findings were published in The Lancet medical journal, said that cases within this age group dropped from 50 each year to five, making it a very rare occurrence.
Cervical cancer rates dropped by 62% for women that were offered the vaccine between the ages of 14 and 16, and a 34% drop in those who got it between ages 16 to 18 when it was first introduced.
The vaccine Gardasil is now used for this programme and given to both girls and boys aged 12 and 13.
The study also found that there was a 97% drop in cases of pre-cancerous changes to cells in women vaccinated between the ages of 12 and 13.
As well as a 75% drop in women vaccinated between the ages of 14 and 16, and a 39% decrease in women vaccinated between the ages of 16 and 18.