Primary human papillomavirus (HPV) screening is a new way of looking at cervical screening (smear) samples, where the check for HPV is the first test carried out.
Evidence shows doing it this way will cut the number of cervical cancers compared to the current method of looking at cervical cells first in a laboratory (cytology).
HPV is very common and in most people causes no problems as the immune system will clear it away naturally within a year or 2.
However, on rare occasions, high risk types of HPV can stay in the cervix and cause abnormal cells to develop. Over many years abnormal cells can progress into cervical cancer if left untreated.