A urine sample could one day replace the need for a woman to have a smear test, a study suggests. Cervical-screening swabs and urine samples were equally as effective at picking up on human papillomavirus (HPV), which can cause cancer.
This could one day lead to an at-home test kit that women can post to a laboratory or drop off at their NHS GP surgery, researchers claim. The scientists behind the study believe the 'very exciting' research has the 'potential to significantly increase participation rates for cervical screening'.
Many woman turn down smear test invites 'because they find it embarrassing or uncomfortable', they claim. But urine is 'very simply to collect' and could lead to a 'new chapter in our fight against cervical cancer'.
Cervical screening attendance is at an all-time low, with just 71 per cent of those invited going for their smear, NHS figures show. The research was carried out by the University of Manchester and led by Dr Emma Crosbie, an honorary consultant gynaecological oncologist.
Almost a third of women aged 25-to-49 have missed their latest smear test, and in some surgeries three quarters have not attended. Experts claim the number of women having routine smear tests has declined over misplaced fears the procedure is painful or embarrassing.
'These results provide exciting proof of principle that urine HPV testing can pick up cervical pre-cancer cells,' Dr Crosbie said.
'We're really very excited by this study, which we think has the potential to significantly increase participation rates for cervical cancer screening in a key demographic group.
'Many younger women avoid the NHS cervical cancer screening programme because they find it embarrassing or uncomfortable. 'Campaigns to encourage women to attend cervical screening have helped.