The Welsh Government announced earlier this year that in line with recommendations made at UK level, the age range covered by Cervical Screening Wales and the frequency of invitation would change.
At present, all women aged between 20 and 64 are invited for screening every three years.
From 1 September, women born after 1 September 1993 will no longer be invited for smear tests until they reach 25, and women aged between 50 and 64 will be invited every five years rather than every three years.
The changes will be introduced in Wales, and follow recommendations made by the National Screening Committee, the body that sets screening policy for the UK.
A consultation held in 2012 by the committee concluded that screening women under the age of 25 is not effective at preventing cervical cancer.
It also recommended that there is no evidence to suggest that women over the age of 50 need to be screened more frequently than every five years.
The changes being introduced in Wales mean that, women born after 1 September 1993 should not expect to receive an invitation to start screening until they are at least 24 years and six months old. Those aged under 25 who have already been screened will continue to receive three-yearly invitations.
Women aged 50 or over, will in the future, be invited every five years.
Dr Rosemary Fox, Director of the Screening Division of Public Health Wales, said: “Women should be reassured that these changes are based on the best available evidence about when screening should be undertaken.
“As usual, women will receive a letter inviting them to make an appointment for a smear test when they are due for screening, and should act on that as soon as possible. Women need to take no other action as a result of the changes.
“However, if women develop symptoms that they are concerned about, they should make an appointment with their GP and not wait for their next smear test.”
Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust – the only UK charity dedicated to supporting women and their families affected by cervical cancer and cervical abnormalities – is raising awareness of the importance of attending a cervical screening when invited.
Robert Music, Chief Executive of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, said: “Cervical cancer is largely a preventable disease thanks to the cervical screening programme. Yet some women we support are diagnosed with cervical cancer after delaying or ignoring their screening invitation. It’s imperative that women attend this life saving test from first to last invitation.”
Cervical screening is not a test for cancer, but for changes in the cervix (the neck of the womb) that can often be treated before cancer develops.
Women who are invited for cervical screening should make an appointment with their GP or sexual health clinic for a smear test, which involves taking a small sample of cells from the cervix for analysis in a laboratory.
Cervical cancer often has no symptoms in the early stages and so it is important to attend screening appointments on time.
The most common symptom of cervical cancer is unexplained bleeding from the vagina, and women who experience this should see their GP immediately even if they have received a normal smear test result in the last three years.
More information on Cervical Screening Wales is available at: http://www.screeningservices.org.uk/csw/
Answers to frequently asked questions on the National Screening Committee decision to raise the age for screening from 20 to 25 in Wales and Scotland are available at: http://www.screening.nhs.uk/cervicalcancer-qa
More information on Jo’s Trust is available at: http://www.jostrust.org.uk/
Source: Cwm Taf Health Board