Cytologists have performed their one millionth HPV Cervical Screening test within Black Country Pathology Services (BCPS).
The team at the hub, based at New Cross Hospital, has also provided the joint second-best performance in the country. Ninety-two per cent of all samples taken have made the national standard of 14-day turnaround time – from the sample being taken to the result reaching the patient by post.
Lee Gregory, Chief Biomedical Scientist and Quality Lead in Cytology, explained that a huge change to cervical screening more than three years ago saw BCPS win the bid for the West Midlands and surrounding areas (Staffordshire, Shropshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire, and Herefordshire) to provide this vital service. BCPS is one of only eight laboratories in England now providing the Cervical Screening Service.
He said: “Our all new fully accredited flagship laboratory with its team of more than 60 staff reached the landmark millionth HPV Cervical Screening test in late December 2022 and we are so proud of this achievement.”
The HPV test is highly sensitive at detecting trace amounts of the HPV virus in a cervical sample. Cervical abnormalities, if left untreated, can advance to become cervical cancer.
The HPV virus is extremely common and asymptomatic; in most cases it will be cleared by the body’s immune system within two years of exposure. In some cases, however, the virus goes unchecked and integrates in the host’s DNA where it causes abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix. In many cases abnormal changes regress back to normal as the virus is cleared, but some can progress and lead to cervical cancer if left untreated.
Lee added: “The importance of screening can’t be underestimated, and we are always keen to raise awareness among younger people in particular as only 60 per cent of them attend their appointments.
“It is very rare that cervical cancer is detected at routine screening, largely due to the success of the screening programme which is estimated to have saved 5,000 lives per year in England alone since its formal establishment in 1988. This Cervical Cancer Prevention Week this message has never been more important.”
Black Country Pathology Services is made up of all four acute Black Country and West Birmingham NHS Trusts and based at Wolverhampton’s New Cross Hospital.