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LBC reducing repeat tests

The phased introduction of liquid-based cytology for cervical screening has already substantially reduced the number of

inadequate tests, NHS statistics reveal.

The figures refute the findings of a systematic review published last year in The Lancet, which suggested LBC would not reduce unsatisfactory slides or improve detection of high-grade lesions.

The rollout of LBC as part of the NHS Cervical Screening Programme began in 2003 following a recommendation from NICE to replace conventional pap smear tests.

Figures from theNHS Information Centre for health and social care show a fall for the first time since 1998 in the proportion of tests that have to be repeated because of contamination with blood or other material.

The percentage of inadequate tests in women aged 25 to 64 dropped from 9 per cent in 2005 to 7.2 per cent up to 10 August 2006.

Julietta Patnick, director of NHS Cancer Screening Programmes, said the figures were 'extremely encouraging'.

'They show women are already benefiting from the new LBC technology. Not only is the number of inadequate tests falling, but women are also getting their results faster. Almost a third of women – 32 per cent – are now receiving their results within four weeks.'

Dr Anne Szarewski, clinical consultant for Cancer Research UK, said the previous systematic review had been 'severely skewed'.

She added: 'This report confirms what we had expected, that LBC reduces the number of inadequate tests and retesting needed.

'Given LBC's increasing inclusion in the roll-out of the

cervical screening programme, it's gratifying to have figures to support that decision.'

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