More than 31,000 women in England will receive home smear tests as part of a trial described as a “game changer” for cervical cancer screening.
This comes after charities expressed concern about delays with a swab test during a pandemic. Although cervical cancer screening has been restarted, there is evidence that some women still do not want to attend meetings because of the risk of catching Covid-19.
Under the pilot who led NHS England, Public Health of England and King’s College London, home accessories will be given to women aged 25 to 64 who wait 15 months and live in the London boroughs of Barnet, Camden, Islington, Newham and Tower Hamlets, the attendance of the examination visit is small.
Cervical cancer kills about 850 people each year. Jo’s Trust of Cancer Trust last month called for “faster action” on home tests for HPV, which causes 99% of cervical cancers.
Home tests include a simple swab taken from the vagina and are less invasive and uncomfortable than traditional smear tests.
Research has also shown that shame is often a key reason why women do not take swab tests, as well as cultural barriers and fear of what it involves.
Dr Anita Lim of King’s College London, who is leading the study,, he said he could be a “game-changing player”.
“We know that many women do not respond to screening, and almost half of the women in some parts of London are not up to date with their cervical examination,” she said.
“It is an intimate procedure and various obstacles can prevent people from attending, although it can be a life-saving test. This simple and convenient swab means it can be done in the privacy and comfort of your own home. “
Lim said that women who do not come for regular check-ups are at the highest risk of developing cervical cancer, so it is crucial that check-ups are facilitated to protect women.
Denmark and Australia are already offering self-testing, but this is the first time that home smear tests have been tested in England. A total of 19,000 women will receive the kit, and 12,000 will receive their GP.
Ruth Stubbs, head of the National Cervical Screening Program at PHE, said the study is the first step in approaching enabling all women to do these tests from home. “London has the lowest cervical screening coverage in the country and is ideal for testing this study,” she said.
After conducting at home, the tests are sent for examination. The results will be sent back by mail and to the general practitioners of the patients.
If a home test detects HPV, women will be invited to attend their GP practice for a standard smear test as a follow-up.
Professor Peter Johnson, NHS National Clinical Director for Cancer, said: “We would invite every woman to take care of a swab test – the earlier HPV is detected, the better.” It could save your life. “
The trial is set to begin in December. Kate Sanger, head of policy and communications at Jo’s Trust of Cancer Trust Trust, said: “Self-sampling removes so many challenges for cervical screening and through our research we know that women really want it. It was fantastic to be a part of this study and hopefully this will lead to a life-saving change and the trauma that a cervical cancer diagnosis can bring. “