Anyone with early cell changes (which are graded as CIN1-2) will be screened more regularly, until the cells have turned back to normal, or treatment is needed. Those with advanced cell changes (CIN3) will be treated using a procedure called LLETZ (“Large loop excision of the transformation zone”), where the abnormal cells are removed before they turn into a cancer. Prof Widschwendter says: “Vaccination against the virus that causes cervical cancer, HPV, is now widely implemented and is leading to changes in the amount and types of the virus circulating in the community. In turn, our approaches to cervical screening must adapt so that programmes continue to deliver benefit.”
The researchers tested 1,254 cervical screening samples from women with cell changes ranging from CIN1 to CIN3, women with HPV but no cervical cell changes, and samples from women without any cervical cell changes who went on to develop CIN3 within 4 years. The new method of analysis out-performed cytology for detecting those with CIN3.