HPV self-sampling is a “useful” tool in fighting cervical cancer, says GP Doireann O’Leary


HPV self-testing at home is a “useful” tool in the fight against cervical cancer, said Cork-based general practitioner Dr. Doireann O’Leary Newstalk.

Home screening is already available in a number of countries and Dr. O’Leary said it would be especially useful for those who are reluctant to attend a face-to-face appointment:

“It does play a role, Andrea, and in particular, it helps us detect HPV in people who don’t have cervical screenings,” said Dr. O’Leary Live at noon.

“So unfortunately there will always be people who, for various reasons, will not take part in your demonstration. Whether they are embarrassed to take part in it, whether they have had a bad experience, or whether they find participating in a smear uncomfortable.

“With that, budget cuts can help for these women. Having HPV screening done at home can help.

“This is not currently available in Ireland – this is just something that could come out in the future to complement our screening program … It is currently operational in some parts of the UK.

“There is a screening program in London called YouScreen that focuses on those areas of London where cervical screening attendance is particularly low.”

The HPV vaccination lowers the risk of cervical cancer. Image by: TNS / SIPA USA / PA Images

Self-sampling in Ireland

The World Health Organization said self-sampling could increase the number of women diagnosed early, and Dr. O’Leary said it would be “useful” for HSE to introduce them in Ireland:

“That would be useful. You know, [it’s] prefer to attend a demonstration [and] To see your GP or nurse, to discuss symptoms, to look for warning signals.

“Because when we do a cervical screening test, the appointment is so much more than just the test.

“We talk to women about the symptoms of a red flag; Is there any post-coital bleeding, bleeding after intercourse, intermenstrual bleeding, bleeding between periods, is there persistent unexplained vaginal discharge?

“When we talk about these symptoms, whether the woman is vaccinated against HPV or not, and just talk about it.

“Then actually seeing the cervix physically is also very important.

“Sometimes we spot abnormalities just by looking, and many cervical cancers are diagnosed by just looking at the cervix, feeling the cervix, does it feel abnormal?

“So there is enormous clinical benefit in talking to the patient about her life, what’s going on, risk factors, whether she smokes, whether she doesn’t smoke.

“Did she get the vaccine, didn’t she get the vaccine? Look at the cervix, talk about the symptoms.

“Because sometimes you skip a cervical screening test when a patient has a warning sign. You have to be referred directly to the gynecology department. ”

Dr. O’Leary continued:

“But no matter what we do, no matter the level of public health awareness of the importance of screening, there will always be people who for various reasons will not attend.

“So the point is to capture this cohort and integrate it into the system so that it can test at home – which is preferable to this cohort of women who simply do not participate.”

Main image: A Pap smear can tell if a woman needs treatment for cervical cancer.


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