DIY Smear Test Could Increase Cervical Screening Rates
Women could be able to do their own smear test at home, according to new plans which aim to reverse the decline in uptake of smear tests over the last two decades.
The DIY test could encourage more women to take the test, which looks for signs of cervical cancer.
The smear test is a way of detecting abnormal cells on the cervix (the entrance to the womb). By detecting these early, cervical cancer can be prevented. Women aged between 25 and 49 are invited to have a smear test every three years, and those aged between 50 and 64 are invited every five years.
The test is done by a nurse or a doctor. It takes about five minutes and involves taking cells from the surface of the cervix.
Although the procedure isn’t painful, many women find it very embarrassing and uncomfortable.
It was recently announced that women having a smear test has fallen to a 21-year low. Only 71.4% of those who were invited for a smear test in 2017/18 had one. This is a drop from 73.7% in 2011. It is the fourth consecutive year that smear test uptake has declined.
One in four women said they didn’t have their smear test due to embarrassment.
New plans to encourage the uptake of smear tests include using DIY tests that women do themselves, at home.
Self-smear tests have already been adopted in Australia, and could be introduced in the UK. Women are sent a test kit and they use a swab to collect a fluid sample from their cervix. This is then sent to a laboratory to be tested.
The DIY tests are nearly as accurate as the ones done by a doctor or nurse.
A study published in the British Medical Journal found that DIY smear tests could increase the number of women having the test. They found that offering self-sampling kits was more effective than sending out invitations to attend a smear test.
Jo’ Cervical Cancer Trust, which campaigns for more women to have smear tests, said that their research indicates that self-sampling is much more accessible for many women, and that 80% of women would rather self-sample at home. This increases to 88% among those women who have delayed having a smear test.
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