LIFESTYLE

Five Million Women Not Up-To-Date With Smear Test, Could This At-Home Screening Device Help Change That?

15/09/2015 00:00 BST

A new at-home test has the potential to save numerous lives by alerting women to cervical cancer.

This comes as new research shows more than five million women aren't up-to-date with their cervical screening appointments and 1.1 million admit they've never had a smear test.

The new test called GynaeCheck is a self-sampling device which offers women a "comfortable and private alternative to smear tests".

Designed by gynaecologists, the £129 test - which looks similar to a pregnancy test - can be ordered online by women who are aged 25 and over.

It is used to detect the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), which causes 99.7% of cervical cancers.

smear test

Cervical cancer is the most common cancer among women under the age of 35 and approximately 3,100 women are diagnosed in the UK every year.

According to Cancer Research UK, 100% of cervical cancer cases could be prevented through early diagnosis.

However many women choose not to go for a smear test because of pain, embarrassment or purely because they struggle to get an appointment.

Research commissioned by GynaeHealth UK to launch their Target100,000 campaign, reveals that the average UK woman is 672 days late for her smear test appointment.

They believe the anxiety around smear tests could be alleviated if women were able to comfortably collect their own sample.

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Despite a cervical cancer screening programme which runs across the UK, only 66% of younger women and 80% of older women attend their smear tests.

Cervical cancer is a slow disease process, which means it can be detected and very successfully treated in the pre-cancerous stages.

If a woman attends regular screening then cancer is very unlikely to develop, as pre-cancerous changes can be treated in a very timely manner. But sadly this isn't happening.

How the at-home test works

"The device collects a fluid sample from the cervix which is then sent to a laboratory to be tested for the high risk strains of HPV known to lead to cervical cancer," says a spokesperson.

"It is simple to use and it takes only three seconds to collect a sample of cervical cells. As no training is required, the self-sampler eliminates the need to book a doctor’s appointment or attend a surgery.

"GynaeCheck is delivered via post in discreet packaging and the sample is returned via a pre-paid envelope with test results expected within 10 days."

According to their spokesperson it also helps "overcome embarrassment" and "avoids any discomfort in obtaining a sample as the woman is in control".

The company also believes it's a viable option for women who do not attend smear tests for religious or personal reasons, such as sexual abuse.

smear test

Consultant gynaecologist Jullien Brady says the device is a "safe way to test for HPV" and has been "used safely and effectively by over 30,000 women across the world".

But Nicola Smith, senior health information officer at Cancer Research UK, says that the best way to be screened is to have a smear test carried out by your GP.

"Cervical screening through your GP is the best way to detect signs of what may turn into cervical cancer so women can be offered treatment to stop the disease developing," she said.

"Women registered with a GP will be invited for a simple, free screening appointment, every three to five years from between their mid-20s to mid-60s.

"There’s no need to buy a kit online," she adds. "Women who are nervous should talk to their GP and can always ask to see a female doctor or nurse."

Meanwhile Robert Music, chief executive of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, says: "It's vital that women attend their free NHS cervical screening when invited as this is the best way to reduce the risk of cervical cancer.

"For those who find it daunting, there have been some positive results from small HPV self-testing trials and we are now calling for larger trials which, if positive, we hope will be implemented by the NHS in the future."

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