Women who are unwilling to go for a smear test could instead provide a urine sample to be screened for cervical cancer, research published in BMJ Open suggests.
Researchers the University of Manchester asked 104 women attending a colposcopy clinic to try the urine test and it performed just as well as conventional smears for detecting high-risk HPV.
‘We're really very excited by this study, which we think has the potential to significantly increase participation rates for cervical cancer screening,’ said lead researcher Dr Emma Crosbie.
The number of people going for smear tests in the UK is at a record low. NHS figures show attendance is down to 71%, meaning several million women across England have not had a smear test for at least three and a half years. Smear tests prevent 75% of cervical cancers, but many women are anxious or embarrassed to attend them.
‘Campaigns to encourage women to attend cervical screening have helped. The brilliant campaign by the late Jade Goody increased numbers attendance by around 400,000 women,’ added Dr Crosbie. ‘But sadly, the effects aren't long lasting and participation rates tend to fall back after a while. We clearly need a more sustainable solution.’