Women who are given the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine may only need three cervical screenings in their lifetime, researchers say.
Patients who have received the HPV jab could receive the same benefit from smear tests at the ages of 30, 40 and 55 than the 12 currently offered, according to a study by Queen Mary University of London (QMUL).
Vaccination against HPV – which is thought to cause nearly all cervical cancers – has been offered to girls aged 11 to 13 since 2008.
Professor Peter Sasieni, lead author of the study, said the finding could slash the amount of cervical screenings – saving the NHS time and money.
He said: “(Vaccinated) women are far less likely to develop cervical cancer so they don’t need such stringent routine checking as those at a higher risk.
“This decision would free up resources for where they are needed most.”
In December 2019, changes to cervical testing will be introduced in England.
Under the new programme, cervical samples will tested for HPV but only checked for abnormal cells if the virus is found.
Currently, samples are checked for abnormalities first, which experts say is less efficient.
Plans to introduce this new HPV test are also being prepared for patients in Scotland and Wales.
When the new test comes in, women who are not vaccinated should only need seven screenings over their lifetime, according to the QMUL study.
Cancer Research UK’s head of health information described the development as “great news for women”.
Dr Julie Sharp said: “The cervical screening programme is already very successful, and has led to a dramatic fall in deaths from the disease since its introduction.
“While we hope to see these improvements to the screening programme in the future, it’s important that women continue to take up invitations for cervical screening.
“So if you’re all set for your next screen, keep that appointment.”