Earlier this year I expressed concern that frighteningly large numbers of women weren’t taking up cancer screening appointments.
There are many reasons why women are slow to respond to requests for these crucial tests.
In the first instance, a smear test involves a technician taking a sample of cells from the cervix by way of a speculum being placed in the vagina.
Not all women find this easy to accept and undergo.
So would offering a DIY kit boost the numbers getting the cervical cancer screen? We’ll soon see.
British scientists have devised a urine test women can do in their own home.
It’s always an option for the NHS to fast-track the introduction of self-sample tests for cervical cancer. Let’s hope, for the sake of women, it does.
Experience from a US trial of 20,000 is encouraging.
It found more than a quarter of women who usually missed their screening appointments were happy to use home-testing kits sent to them which involve a cervical test that uses a swab to identify the HPV virus, responsible for virtually all cervical cancer cases.
That’s a 50% increase in uptake compared with American women who were only sent reminder letters to go for cervical screening.
Nearly a third of British women ignored their latest reminder for one – and screening has fallen to an all-time low.
Almost five million are currently overdue for testing – all vulnerable to a cancer forming and going undiscovered.
For the many women who are too embarrassed or busy to attend a clinic, the chance to test themselves in the privacy and comfort of their own home is a real possibility.
King’s College London and NHS England are carrying out a pilot study of home-testing kits, but the new US study’s success could speed up a decision to adopt the test here.
Researcher Diana Buist, of medical care specialists Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle, which carried out the research, said: “It really opens up the possibility for home testing to be a widespread option for women.”
Now, as the result of the British invention, UK women could use a urine test which would be much less invasive. It works by spotting chemical changes in DNA caused by the cancer.