DIY smear tests could soon be available as cervical screening attendance hits 20-year low

In a new initiative to encourage more women to undergo smear tests, DIY test kits will soon be set out to scores of women in the UK.

An initial pilot scheme will see women in north and east London given home-testing kits from September 2019, with the hope that they’ll then be rolled out across the country.

The move is being made to encourage more women to take their smear tests, as the number of women currently attending theirs has hit a worrying, 20-year-low.

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According to the BBC, less than half of women of eligible screening age are having the test.

It’s said that the kit will be as ‘user-friendly’ as possible, and will test for the human papillomavirus, which causes 99% of all cases of cervical cancer. The kits will be sent to women via post.

Currently, smear tests are one of the best ways of reducing instances of cervical cancer, allowing doctors to detect it early and as such, give women a better chance of survival.

Sir Mike Richards, the government’s former cancer director for England, told MPs, “I think if we find it is successful, it might well be able to reach people who aren’t being reached by the current service,

“We need to improve the convenience for patients – better access in terms of out-of-hours services, better access in terms of [clinics] close to where people work – but on top of that we may get to a different segment of the population by offering HPV self-sampling sets through the post.”

The north and east areas of London were chosen for the initial testing scheme as these areas consistently see less women attending their smear tests.

Organisers of the self-testing kits hope to send them out to more than 22,000 women.

At the moment, women aged between 25 – 49 should be having their smear test every three years, while women between the ages of 50 and 64 are asked to have them every five years.

Speaking to the BBC, the chief executive of Jo’s Trust, the leading cervical cancer charity in the UK, Robert Music, said the DIY test kits could be a ‘game-changer’.

He explained, “We have been calling for this for a long time and believe this could be a game-changer in regards to access to screening.

“Introduction of self sampling will be of enormous benefit to many people, including survivors of sexual violence and women with a physical disability.”