Gynaecological and Cervical Screening
At The London General Practice we offer comprehensive general gynaecology services as well as more specialised areas such as menopause and hormone health.
Cervical Screening with HPV
The London General Practice has reviewed all the available guidelines around the world for screening for cervical cancer and spoken with world renowned experts.
The London General Practice recommends that individuals with a cervix follow the guidelines below:
- Cervical cancer screening should begin at the age of 25.
- Those aged 25-65 should be offered an HPV test every year.
- Those over the age of 65 who have had regular screening in the past 10 years with normal results and no history of CIN-2 or more serious diagnosis within the past 25 years can stop cervical screening. However, if they wish to continue and are currently sexually active, then it can be continued.
- Those who have had a total hysterectomy with removal of the uterus and cervix can stop screening unless the hysterectomy was done as a treatment for cervical cancer or serious pre cancer.
- People who have had a hysterectomy without removal of the cervix should continue cervical screening according to the guidelines above.
- People who have had vaccination against HPV should still follow the guidelines for their age group.
High Risk Populations
- If there is a history of serious pre-cancer, then screening should continue for at least 25 years after the condition was found even if the testing goes past the age of 65.
- Those who are at high risk of cervical cancer because of suppressed immune system such as HIV infection, organ transplant, or long-term steroid use or because they were exposed to DES in utero may need to be screened more often.
- They should seek advice from their specialist healthcare team.
The HPV test looks for infection by high risk types of HPV that are more likely to cause pre-cancers and cancers of the cervix. The HPV test can be used alone or proceed to a PAP cytology test.
Screening tests offer the best chance to have cervical cancer found early when treatment can be most successful.
Screening can also prevent most cervical cancers by finding abnormal cervical cell changes, pre-cancers, so they can be treated before they have a chance to turn into cervical cancer.
How can you limit exposure to HPV?
HPV is passed from one person to another during skin to skin contact with an infected area of the body. Although HPV can be spread during skin to skin contact – including vaginal, anal, and oral sex – sex does not have to occur for the infection to spread. All that is needed is skin to skin contact with an area of the body infected with HPV. This means that the virus can be spread without sex. It is even possible for a genital infection to spread through hand to genital contact.
Also, HPV infection seems to be able to spread from one part of the body to another. This means that an infection may start in the cervix and then spread to the vagina and vulva.
It can be very hard not to be exposed to HPV. It may be possible to prevent HPV infection by not allowing others to have contact with your anal and genital area, but even then, there may be other ways to become infected that are not yet clear.
Limiting the number of sexual partners and avoiding sex with people who have had any other sexual partners may lower your risk of exposure to HPV but again, HPV is very common so having sexual activity with even one other person can put you at risk.
It should be remembered that someone can have HPV for years and still have no symptoms. It is quite possible for someone to have the virus and pass it on without even knowing they have it.
Use of condoms provide some protection against HPV but they do not completely prevent infection. One reason that condoms cannot protect completely is because they do not cover every possible HPV infected area of the body such as skin of the genital or anal area. Still, condoms provide some protection against HPV, and they also help protect against HIV and some other sexually transmitted infections.
Do not smoke. This appears to be another important way to reduce the risk of cervical pre-cancer and cancer.
This prevents against getting HPV completely and is recommended for all children and young adults.
At the London General Practice we screen for cancers individually or as part of one of our comprehensive health screens. Our genetic testing cancer panel can also help you understand if you have an increased genetic risk of developing any one of 57 hereditary cancer conditions.