New cancer tests will save thousands of women’s lives

Hundreds of women’s lives across Newham could be saved with the introduction of a new test designed to spot cervical cancer.

Launched by Barts Health NHS Trust, the cobas Human Papillomavirus (HPV) test confirms whether minor abnormalities - identified by a routine screening - contain harmful strains of the virus known to cause cervical cancer.

If found, more tests will be carried out to see if pre-cancerous cells are present and, if so, immediate treatment will begin to remove them.

A second procedure will also be carried out once treatment is finished to make sure the harmful strains of the HPV virus have been completely eliminated, so there’s no need for repeated annual testing over a decade.

Geoffrey Curran, Barts Health NHS Trust Cytology Manager, said more than 7,000 women a year from across the region could benefit from the new tests now available at The Royal London Hospital.

He said of the new proceedures: “This is much better than the old ‘wait-and-see’ system where we would invite the woman back for further tests every six months and only begin further investigations once three sets of results had come back abnormal, potentially giving pre-cancerous cells another 18 months to develop”.

Test samples are processed at the hospital’s cytology laboratory which is the largest in London checking cervical screening samples from GP surgeries across the area.

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The lab is only the second in London performing the new test, developed by Roche Diagnostics.