The Welsh government is to roll out improved screening programmes for both cervical and bowel cancer. 

For cervical cancer, a new pilot programme will be launched which will switch the order of cervical screening tests.

Currently in Wales, women aged 25-64 are invited for a smear test where a sample of cervix cells are taken and microscopically investigated for the presence of abnormal cells.

From April however, the first screening test performed on these cell samples will be the human papilloma virus (HPV) test – an investigation that tests for the leading cause of cervical cancer.

For bowel cancer, the faecal immunochemical test (FIT) – an investigation that looks for hidden blood in faeces – will be part of normal bowel screening from 2018/19.

Unlike the current national screening method, which requires three faecal samples taken from separate days, FIT only needs one sample to be taken. An easier test may encourage more people to take part in the country’s screening programme.

The method has already been recommended by the UK National Screening Committee and will be introduced in Scotland next year and in England in 2018.

“Introducing the new screening tests in Wales could save more lives by detecting disease early when it is more likely to be treated successfully,” said Sara Bainbridge, policy manager at Cancer Research UK.

“Bowel and cervical screening programmes are crucial in reducing both cancer cases and deaths, and research shows that these changes will make them even more effective.”