Experts say it is a switch that could pick up an extra 600 cancers a year.
Women invited for a routine smear test will now automatically be checked for an infection called HPV (Human Papilloma Virus), which has been strongly linked to cervical cancer.
Until now, an HPV test has only been done if doctors noticed abnormal cells in the smear sample.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are currently considering whether to introduce routine HPV testing into its cervical screening programme.
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Public Health Minister for England Jane Ellison said: “These changes are a breakthrough in the way we test women for cervical disease. The new test is more accurate, more personal and will reduce anxiety among women.
“Cervical screening currently saves 4,500 lives a year, and this new test will ensure the early signs are spotted and treated earlier.”
SOURCES – BBC News