Women in Newham and Tower Hamlets to trial at-home smear tests

The women in the trial will be able to do their smear tests at home

The tests look for strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV) which cause most cases of cervical cancer. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Tens of thousands of women are to trial at-home smear tests in a bid to cut the number of cervical cancers.

The kits will be sent in the post to women aged 25-64 years who are 15 months overdue for a check and live in Newham, Tower Hamlets, Barnet, Camden and Islington - where screening appointment attendance is low.

Women who are six months overdue for their test and attend GPs surgeries involved with the trial will also be offered an at-home kit.

It is the first time home screening has been trialled in the NHS in England.

The kits mean the women can carry out the tests in their own home, rather than having it conducted by a health professional in a GP surgery or health centre.

Health officials said that if the trial is successful it could be rolled out across the NHS in England.

It is hoped that the move will encourage more people to take the test.

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The tests look for strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV) which cause most cases of cervical cancer.

Previous studies have suggested that women may not attend appointments due to embarrassment, fear of the test or cultural barriers.

"This is an important new way to make screening easier for thousands of women," said Professor Peter Johnson, national clinical director for cancer for the NHS in England.

"We know there are lots of reasons why women might not attend a screening appointment, including worries about Covid.

"GPs have taken extra precautions to make surgeries safe, and these home kits give thousands of women another option to keep up to date with their screening.

"We would urge every woman to make sure they have their smear test - the earlier HPV is detected the better. It could save your life."

Women taking part in the YouScreen trial will post their swabs back for analysis. They will receive their result in the post, and if HPV is detected they will be contacted for a follow-up appointment.

Dr Anita Lim, from King's College London - who is leading the study, said: "Self-sampling is a game-changer for cervical screening.

The YouScreen study will run until December 2021.