A new one-hour smear test that can be carried out at home could change the way we detect cervical cancer
A new DIY smear test that could reduce the number of women visiting their GPs for a screening has gone on sale on the internet today.
The one-hour test costs £115 and works by inserting a special tampon. The results are then posted to a lab for analysis. Results are then uploaded on to a secure online patient record, which the woman creates when she registers for the service, on the DrThom website.
Medical experts hope the home device will encourage more women to get tested, particularly those who feel embarrassed about seeing a doctor or are too busy to make an appointment.
The test can also be used by women under the age of 25, who are not eligible for free NHS screening but want to check for early signs of cancer.
Consultant gynaecologist Nick Wales, who helped develop the test, says: ‘It is an invaluable addition to the detection of pre-cancerous changes of the cervix. I believe within 10 years all cervical screening will be done this way.’
But not all cancer experts are in favour. Many believe this new test will lead to women under 30 being told they have the sexually transmitted infection HPV (human papillomavirus), which causes most cases of cervical cancer, when it would clear up on its own.
Clinical consultant Anne Szarewski says: ‘In young people, everyone is going to test positive. The rate of HPV is high but it’s transient…it comes and goes.’
The concern is that women under 25 whose results suggest something is wrong with be left feeling very anxious.
‘Women will be paranoid and they will not be eligible for an NHS colonoscopy, so they are going to be paying a few hundred pounds more for a colonoscopy privately, which is unnecessary,’ says Dr Szarewski
Every year, over 2,800 UK women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and almost 1,000 die form it every year. However, a study published in the British medial Journal says home smear testing could double the number of women diagnosed with cervical cancer.
For more information on cervical cancer, visit www.cancerresearchuk.org