Thousands of women will test out DIY home kits to check for early signs of cervical cancer. The NHS is running the trial, with hopes the home tests will help to reduce cervical cancer rates among women.
The YouScreen trial is currently happening in parts of London, with a total of 31,000 women aged 25-64 taking part. It is a straightforward test that involves taking a vaginal swab with a long cotton bud and then sending it off through the post for testing.
If the swab sample shows any signs of human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, the NHS will invite patients for a regular smear test to do a more detailed examination. By catching signs of cervical cancer in the early stages, more lives can be saved.
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A crucial step toward tackling cervical cancer
The person heading up the trial is Dr Anita Lim from London’s King’s College. She said that women who did not attend regular screenings were at increased risk of developing cervical cancer. Lim added that home testing could prove a crucial step toward tackling cervical cancer, as it made screening easier for women.
She said, “Women who don't come for regular screening are at the highest risk of developing cervical cancer. So, it is crucial that we find ways like this to make screening easier and protect women from what is a largely preventable cancer. Self-sampling is a game-changer.”
Encouraging screening among more women
While smear tests are essential for women to check for any signs of cervical cancer, many fail to attend their regular screenings. Several reasons have been highlighted for the high numbers not attending smear tests. This includes cultural barriers and simple embarrassment at having the smear test carried out.
In addition, the situation with Covid has made matters worse, as many women are afraid to attend their smear tests in the current climate. Figures also show huge numbers of tests have been delayed or missed over the past year because of the pandemic and the various restrictions in place.
In countries such as Australia and Denmark, this type of at-home testing is already offered. With the global pandemic adding to the numbers of missed tests among women in the UK, cancer charities have called for the same type of testing to be offered here.
However, officials from Cancer Research UK added that they are unsure of how effective the home test kits will be until the trial is completed.