Home smear tests being developed, department of health announces

Sarah Young
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The Department of Health has announced that it is currently developing at-home smear test kits.

On Tuesday, Jo Churchill, health minister, said the government is committed to improving access to cervical cancer screenings for all women and confirmed that the Department of Health is working on a kit which will allow women to complete the tests themselves.

The announcement was made after Churchill was quizzed by fellow MP Tracey Crouch about how the department was looking to make cervical cancer screenings more accessible

“Many people with severe conditions such as agoraphobia face inequalities in terms of access to life-saving services such as cervical smear tests,” Crouch said.

"What is my honourable friend doing to ensure that these services could be administered outside a clinical setting, thus reducing health inequalities for those who for whatever reason are housebound?”

In response, Churchill said: “No woman should be denied access to vital screening."

"We are actually working on the area of cervical screening on a home kit which should help in time.

"Nobody should be denied, we are committed to improving access for all women.”

The move follows the news that cervical cancer has risen sharply among young women with numbers attending screening appointments hitting a record low.

Data released by Cancer Research UK during Cervical Cancer Prevention Week showed that progress on tackling the disease has been “stalling and stagnating” and that there has been a 54 per cent rise in cervical cancer rates among 25 to 29-year-olds.

The organisation added that less than three-quarters of all women invited for a cervical screening go on to accept the appointment – with attendance rates for screenings even lower among women of younger ages and living in more deprived areas.

In November 2019, researchers at Queen Mary University of London announced that they had developed an at-home smear kit for cervical cancer tests.

The kit allows women to take a vaginal swab or urine sample at home and send it into a lab, where it will be tested for chemical changes.

The kits, if successful, are expected to be available in three years’ time.

According to the NHS, cervical cancer often has no symptoms in its early stages.

However, some of the most common symptoms can include abnormal vaginal bleeding, which can occur during or after sex, in between periods, or new bleeding after you have been through the menopause.

Other symptoms of cervical cancer may include pain and discomfort during sex, unusual or unpleasant vaginal discharge, and pain in your lower back or pelvis.

While vaginal bleeding is common and can have a wide range of causes, the NHS adds that it should be investigated by your GP.

Read our step-by-step guide to what happens during a smear test here.

You can contact the Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust free helpline on 0808 802 8000. Click here to check the helpline opening times.

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