Home Screening For Cervical Cancer
f you are too shy or embarrassed to go to the doctor for your regular smear test you will soon be able to do it at home. Latest research published in the February 2010 online edition of British Journal of Cancer shows that home screening is an effective way to reach women who don't go to the doctor for screening.
Researchers sent 3000 women in the Westminster area either a self-screening test for HPV, which is a precursor for cervical cancer or a third reminder letter to go to their GP for a test. Twice as many women sent back the self-screening test than those who went to their GP for a cervical smear test.
How Accurate Is The Test?
The home testing kit is as accurate as the one the doctors do and of course, it's much more convenient and much less embarrassing. In the study, 99% of the self-samples were able to be tested and eight of the women were found to have HPV. Two women had abnormal cells at a high grade and third was diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer.
The Jane Goody Effect
Even though there have been more young women coming for testing as a result of reality TV star Jane Goody's illness and death from cervical cancer, there are still a substantial number of women who don't go for screening. Researchers feel that if this self-testing kit becomes widely available a lot more young women's lives could be saved, by early diagnosis.
Screening for abnormal cells works as an early warning system for cervical cancer. Pre-cancerous cells can be treated and this can prevent the disease from developing. If Jane Goody had been diagnosed earlier, it is quite probable that her life could've been saved. It is therefore very important that women get screened. Women who are at high-risk of developing cervical cancer need to be especially careful to get regular checkups.
Who Is At High Risk?
Women who have a lot of male sexual partners are more at risk than women who are in mutually monogamous relationships. If you have been infected with HPV, have genital warts or cervical lesions you are also more at risk of developing cervical cancer. Cigarette smoking also puts you into the high-risk category as does having a lot of children, especially from multiple partners.
With the introduction of the school vaccination programme to protect young girls from most of the HPV viruses, more young women are being protected against cervical cancer. However, the vaccine only protects you against 7 out of 10 of the HPV viruses. It also it isn't known how long the protection of the vaccine will last. So even if you had the vaccine at school, you still need to have regular screening. If you missed out being vaccinated because you left school before the protection programme was introduced, you can still get vaccinated. As long as you haven't already been infected with the HPV virus, it's worth asking your doctor about getting vaccinated. Unfortunately, you may need to pay privately depending on your age and where you live.
Every week about 55 women in the UK discover that they have cervical cancer and in 2008, 960 women died from the disease. The charity, Cancer Research, who was responsible for the research, want to test out the home screening test in other areas in the UK. Until it's available in your area, make sure you visit your GP for your regular PAP smear test.