Home testing 'could help cervical screening'

07 December 2018 08:20

Cervical screenings rates are at their lowest since 1997

Cervical screenings rates are at their lowest since 1997

Women who don't attend cervical screenings should be offered testing kits they can use at home, new research suggests.

According to a team of experts, tests carried out at home provide results just as accurate as those done in a clinic, and could be an effective way of reaching more women.

In response to their research, they called for pilot schemes to test self-sampling screening.

The findings come a week after charity Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust warned that the number of women who attend cervical screening has fallen to a 21-year low across England.

Lowest level

Figures from NHS Digital show that in 2017/18 just 71.4% of women in England attended screening within the appropriate timeframe, the lowest level since 1997.

Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust calculated that of the 4.46 million women aged 25 to 64 who were invited for a test during 2017/18, 1.28 million did not attend.

The latest study, published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), examined how self-sampling affected the accuracy of HPV testing and whether its use might improve cervical cancer detection among women not participating in screening programmes.

The researchers, from Australia and the US, conducted two systematic reviews of studies looking at both in-clinic testing and self-sampling testing.

They found that mailing self-sample kits to the woman's home address generated higher response rates compared with an invitation or reminder letter asking them to attend an appointment.

But when women had to opt in and personally request a self-sample kit, the response rates did not improve.

Accessible test

Robert Music, chief executive of Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust, said: "It's very positive to see further research showing the benefits of HPV self-sampling and hopefully this can help it becoming closer to reality in the UK.

"Self-sampling is a much more accessible test, making it easier for many groups.

"Our recent research found that 80% of women would prefer to self-sample at home, and this number rose to 88% of women who had delayed having a smear test."

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