WOMEN who are too embarrassed or busy to attend a smear test could soon provide a urine sample instead.
Researchers found a pee test may be just as effective at preventing cervical cancer as an intimate probe.
Getty – Contributor Smear tests may be replaced by urine samples which are thought to be just as effective
They believe their breakthrough will save lives by encouraging more women to take up the offer of screening.
It could be done privately at home and then posted to a lab or dropped off at a GP surgery at a convenient time.
Screening attendances are at a record low of just 71 per cent, with 5million women overdue their appointment.
Around 3,200 are diagnosed with cervical cancer in the UK each year and 1,000 die from it – including Big Brother star Jade Goody.
Screening aims to identify abnormal cells that are at risk of developing into cancer, so they can be treated before tumours occur.
Medics also look for high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV), an infection that causes 99.7 per cent of cervical cancers.
Boffins at the University of Manchester analysed urine and smears from 18 women identified by biopsy as needing treatment.
One type of test identified 15 of these from urine and 15 from smears. And another found 15 from the urine and 16 from smears.
Many younger women avoid the NHS cervical cancer screening programme because they find it embarrassing or uncomfortable
Study leader Dr Emma Crosbie said: “These results provide exciting proof of principle that urine HPV testing can pick up cervical pre-cancer cells.
“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.
“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.”
She added: “We need to trial it on a greater number of women before it can be used in the NHS and we hope that is going to happen soon.
‘DEVASTATING AND PERNICIOUS DISEASE’
“Urine is very simple to collect and most hospitals have access to the lab equipment to process and test the samples.
“Let us hope this is a new chapter in our fight against cervical cancer, a devastating and pernicious disease.”
The researchers found women would rather provide a urine sample than have a smear test.
And they say testing urine is likely to be cheaper because it does not require a doctor or nurse to take samples.
Robert Music, Chief Executive of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, said urine tests have the potential to boost uptake but larger trials are needed.
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He added: “If urine testing is found to be as accurate as current testing methods and more appealing to women, then it could be a positive innovation. With attendance at an all time low, advancements which can change this are essential.”
The NHS invites women aged 25 to 49 for cervical screening every three years and those aged 50 to 64 every five years.
Eight in ten young women who have delayed or avoided tests say they feel “body conscious”, suggesting many are “dying from embarrassment”.
The trial findings are published in the journal BMJ Open.
PROMISE OF STUDYBy Athena Lamnisos of The Eve Appeal
THERE are so many different reasons why cervical screening is at a 20 year low.
Two of the main barriers are convenience and embarrassment.
Busy women can find it hard to book an appointment and feel embarrassed about a test that only takes a few minutes but does involve showing your body to a health practioner.
Cervical screening is a prevention test, it spots changes before they become cancerous.
A new test that can do this while also overcoming barriers for women such as convenience and embarrassment is welcomed.
This research sounds like a promising early step but is some way off being rolled out through the NHS.
In the meantime, women must continue to book their screening appointment when they’re called.
It’s a life saving test and The Eve Appeal will continue supporting women with all the information they need to encourage them to attend screening.
Peter Powell – The Sun Big Brother star Jade Goody tragically died of cervical cancer in 2009
Robert Music, Chief Executive of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, says urine tests have the potential to boost uptake
NHS to roll out DIY smear test kits in a pilot scheme as five milion British women shun the clinic