Scientists have developed a new cervical cancer test, claiming it could help save thousands of women's lives.
The team of British and American experts came to the conclusion, following a study involving around 47,000 women.
The new cobas 4800 HPV test delivered more accurate than the smear test which is currently used to identify early signs of the disease.
The technique is capable of spotting pre-cancerous cells in women whose cervical smears tested normal.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is a necessary factor in the development of nearly all cases of cervical cancer.
Pre-cancerous and cancerous cells can be formed in the cervix due to continuous HPV infection.
The ATHENA HPV Diagnostics trial demonstrated that over 10% of women aged 30 and over had cervical pre-cancer, although their smear test failed to pick the symptoms. The trial was carried out by Roche.
The NHS introduced cervical cancer screening in 1988 aimed at women aged 20 to 65.
Women are currently invited to attend screening every three or five years depending on age, with patients being recalled if the smear appears abnormal.
Smears allow for examination of cells from the cervix to detect abnormalities that could lead to cervical cancer.
It is claimed the new test highlights the limitations of relying on examining and assessing the appearance of cervical cells under a microscope, as is the traditional method.
Scientists believe the new test could provide early detection of pre-cancerous changes in the cervix, reducing the risk of cervical cancer and potentially saving lives.
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