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Home smear kits may boost detection

Home kits for cervical cancer detection could be a help for women too embarrassed or busy to attend smear tests, a study has concluded.

Scientists posted self-sample tests to women who did not respond to two notifications and found this tactic more effective than another reminder letter. Human papillomavirus (HPV) detection kits went to 1,500 participants and written notifications to another 1,500.

In the first group, 96 women (6.4%) completed the test, with eight testing positive for HPV and one woman found to have an invasive cancer. A further 57 (3.8%) were prompted to book a smear appointment with their GP.

Only 68 women (4.5%) in the other group went for cervical screening after their third reminder.

Study author, Dr Anne Szarewski, said: "Women who don't go for cervical screening face a higher risk of cervical cancer. Home testing is as accurate as samples taken by doctors and can help address some of the reasons, like finding time or being embarrassed, that women often give as reasons for not attending screening."

HPV is a major cause of cervical cancer, but the proportion of women screened in the past five years has dropped to 78.9%. Cancer Research UK carried out the study on Westminster Primary Care Trust patients and now wants to widen trials.

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Cancer Research UK