Urine test could mark the end of smear tests

Caroline Allen
Contributor
Women could provide a urine sample rather than going for a smear test, a trial has found. [Photo: Getty]

Women may now be able to provide urine samples rather than going for a smear test to be screened for cervical cancer, research suggests.

A trial has found that a urine test is just as accurate at detecting the HPV virus. The presence of the virus is one of the main factors associated with cervical cancer.

Experts have said that self-testing could be a game-changer for women, with the number of people attending their cervical screenings lower than ever in the UK.

Bigger trials are still needed, but this is a big step forward.

READ MORE: Rebooting Jade Goody’s smear test legacy

Several million women across England have not had a smear test in the last three and a half years. Recent NHS figures have shown that attendance is now at 71 per cent.

Reasons for the lack of uptake vary, with some women feeling embarrassed and nervous and others finding the experience painful and uncomfortable.

Whilst many women may find it uncomfortable, a smear test’s early detection of abnormal cells prevents 75 per cent of cervical cancer cases.

READ MORE: A call to ditch the term ‘smear test’

Women between the ages of 25 and 64 are invited to attend a screening at least once every three years.

The urine test trial was led by researchers at the University of Manchester.

They asked 104 women, who were attending a colonoscopy clinic, to take the urine test as well as a smear test.

The urine test performed equally as well as the smear test in detecting HPV, BMJ Open has reported.

READ MORE: Theresa May talks about her smear test experiences

The lead researcher, Dr Emma Crosbie, described it as having the “potential to significantly increase participation rates for cervical cancer screening.”

She continued: “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.”

“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.”

As larger trials of the urine test will still be needed before it can be recommended to the NHS, Dr Emma Crosbie recommends: “In the meantime, women must continue to book their screening appointment when they’re called. It’s a life-saving test.”

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