Home smear tests to be trialled in London, following lockdown delays

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More than 31,000 women in England will be given home smear tests as part of a trial that has been described as a “gamechanger” for cervical cancer screening.

It comes after charities raised concern about smear test delays during the pandemic. While cervical cancer screening has restarted, there is evidence that some women remain reluctant to attend appointments due to the risk of catching Covid-19.

Under a pilot run by NHS England, Public Health England and King’s College London, the home kits will go to women aged 25-64 years who are 15 months overdue for a check and live in the London boroughs of Barnet, Camden, Islington, Newham and Tower Hamlets, where screening appointment attendance is low.

Cervical cancer kills around 850 people every year. Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust last month called for “faster action” on home tests for HPV, which causes 99% of cervical cancers.

Home tests involve a simple swab being taken from inside the vagina, and are less invasive and uncomfortable than traditional smear tests.

Research has also shown that embarrassment is often a key underlying reason for women not attending smear tests, as well as cultural barriers and fear about what it involves…

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