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DIY kits could aid women who miss their smear test

WOMEN who miss smear test appointments could be asked to make DIY cervical cancer checks at home, according to scientists.

Researchers found women sent self-testing kits were more than twice as likely to send in a sample than they were to respond to an invitation or reminder letter to attend a clinic.

Now study author Dr Marc Arbyn, of the Belgian Cancer Centre in Brussels, says the DIY approach could benefit women in countries without formal screening programmes and ‘non-responders’ in more developed nations.

Testing for human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is replacing cytology as the screening test for cervical cancer, according to a study published in The BMJ. Researchers conducted reviews of published trial results. Two types of home tests showed a slightly greater number of ‘false positives’ than from samples taken at a clinic.

Analysis of trials comparing the impact of offering self-sampling kits instead of screening appointments to under-screened women, found home testing got twice the response.

Researchers found more than 80 per cent of women in developing countries without screening programmes took up the DIY kit offer. But Dr Arbyn said the offer of home tests ‘might also be an effective strategy to reach non-responders in countries with established screening programmes’.

Cervical cancer rates have come down in Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand after the introduction of widespread screening.