What is HPV? How can preventing cervical cancer help Theresa May?

Theresa May got a rare dose of bad news in the summer, when her party’s answer to Michael Gove pulled the plug on an expansion of the health service. Called Optima, the policy would have given the elderly and disabled free access to the optometrist.

However, in an embarrassing snub to her plans, the Prime Minister has now inherited an even more headache-inducing medical issue – namely, the UK’s highest prevalence of cervical cancer.

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And, possibly worse, the cancer is relatively easy to treat, until it strikes. It is also incredibly difficult to catch until it is too late to work for those at risk. So, actually, there’s a good chance some people could be missing out on the care they so desperately need.

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The issue centres around a disease that is more common in women than it is in men – the human papillomavirus (HPV). That’s the same virus that causes cervical cancer, which according to Cancer Research UK, affects around 3 in every 100 women in the UK.

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More than 90% of women in the UK know they are infected with the virus, but an estimated nine in 10 don’t know they can protect themselves from cancer, as HPV immunisation doesn’t currently exist. To find out why…

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