A radical theory on how to encourage women to take their smear test has been published in the British Medical Journal. It suggests that women who miss a GP appointment for a smear test would be more likely to submit the test, if it were provided as a self- sample kit to do at home.
The study was conducted in order to test the accuracy of HPV test from a home sample, and help improve cervical cancer detection for women who are not attending regular screenings. The first review concluded that results from HPV tests taken at home varied depending on the technology used for testing. Some results on home tests were more likely to be inaccurate, leading to a false diagnosis. The second review discovered that women who were offered to take their own HPV as a home test were twice as likely to respond than they would to a reminder letter. They did also find that women were not as likely to request a HPV home test from their GP.
But would women benefit from taking their own smear tests at home or will it just be a waste of NHS resources?
It’s previously been reported that one in three women will not attend a cervical cancer screening due to embarrassment. Home screening tests would reduce the anxiety associated with the testing and encourage more women to have their health checked regularly. This is supported by the research; 80% of women would rather self- sample at home. Testing from home will also be beneficial for women who are not as mobile or who cannot easily get to their local GP, as it is more accessible. The study did also show that 80% of women in developing countries, such as Africa and South America, would take a home test if they were offered one. The more women who are getting tested, the more women there are getting help.
The accuracy of the testing is of the utmost importance, especially when it comes to detecting abnormal cells in a cancer screening test. According to the study, the accuracy of the self- sample, kits were significantly different compared to the samples taken from the GP. The self- sample kits were not as accurate, varying on the technology used to test the samples, and were showing a false positive result. There is no benefit to a HPV self- care kit unless the results are 100% accurate.