A painless smear doubles the intake in those over 50: Older women are more likely to have an examination with a swab, shows a study
- Half of cervical cancer deaths in the UK are people aged 65 and over
- Around 25 percent of British women aged 50 to 64 ignore invitations to swab tests
- Study found that these women were more likely to swab a swab
Research shows that a new type of painless swab doubles the attendance of older women at appointments.
Half of the UK’s deaths from cervical cancer, which kills around 850 women each year, are over the age of 65.
Because of the pain, embarrassment, and lack of time, many of these women had long gone without smears that could have prevented their cancer.
However, one study has now found that women ages 50 to 64 are more likely to have a swab that avoids a painful speculum.
Half of the UK’s deaths from cervical cancer, which kills around 850 women each year, are people aged 65 and over
The study specifically looked at women who had not previously responded to invitations for screening and offered them two options.
They could get tested at home or get a smear test at a clinic if they feared they would get the test wrong.
Of 393 women who were given both options, 31 percent underwent cervical screening the following year.
That was more than double the 14 percent intake in 391 older women in the normal screening program.
The only swab test currently available at the NHS uses a speculum to take cells from the cervix and check if they are precancerous.
Over the next three years, with more evidence, the study authors hope that women could also be offered swabs in a clinic or at home.
The study specifically looked at women who had not previously responded to invitations for screening and offered them two options
This is possible because doctors have been looking for the HPV virus, the main cause of cervical cancer, with a swab since 2019. Only then are cells from the cervix examined with a speculum in women with high-risk strains of HPV.
Dr. Anita Wey Lim, who led the study at King’s College London, said, âIn cervical screening, the speculum can be a real source of anxiety and embarrassment for women.
âThis is a real problem because under-screened women are at the highest risk of developing cervical cancer.
âSelf-sampling has been hailed as a breakthrough in cervical screening, but the solution is not just home screening – having a doctor or nurse collect a sample without a speculum gives women even more choice to be comfortable with the exam . ‘
About 25 percent of British women aged 50 to 64 ignore invitations to swab tests. And that despite around 600 cases of cervical cancer per year in women aged 65 and over.
Screening the cervix with a speculum becomes more painful with age, and especially after menopause.
The study, published in the British Journal of General Practice, found that nearly two-thirds of those who tested themselves at home said they were unsure of the accuracy of their result, although studies show the method is accurate.
Among those who opted for a speculum-free smear from a doctor, 28 percent said it was important for a doctor to do it.