2021-02-25 10:42

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Do Cervical Smear DIY Home Kits Actually Do What The Media Claim?

*DIY test kit does NOT screen the Cervix for abnormal cells*

UK media outlets have today promoted the NHS trial of Cervical Smear Testing kits being sent to some 31,000 women in London as part of a trial before launching the kits across the UK. In fact this has been going on since beginning of January this year, and is something that Cancer charities have been calling to be developed for many years.

Whilst the headlines refer to cervical cancer, what they do not tell you, nor is it mentioned in the texts, is that these kits are NOT testing for Cervical cancer at all, but for the human papillomavirus (HPV) virus being present in the Vagina.

The reason for this is that research shows that 99.7% of cervical cancer is caused by the virus, claims the NHS.

The fact is that to perform the test, the swab is NOT at all in contact with the Cervix – a distinction that makes the name of these test kits quite misleading.

Pic: Swab from DIY test kitBecause HPV is present in the majority of patients with abnormal cervical cells, the assumption is that it will also be present in the cells in the vagina, which is not always the case.

The actual cervical cancer screening done at clinics takes a sample from the Cervix in order to determine whether or not the cells of the cervix are in any way abnormal. The presence of HPV is normally found, which can lead to cancerous cells being formed.

It is possible to have abnormal cells in the cervix, but no presence of HPV in the vagina. Consequently, this home test could come back with a negative result, whilst the woman concerned does have abnormal cells in her cervix, which may or may not turn into cervical cancer; but will go undetected. However, given that most cervical cancer is caused by the HPV infection; this possibility is considered to be extremely low.

But, it is important to note that only those women with a positive DIY HPV smear test result will be referred on to a clinic for an actual smear test where cells taken from their Cervix are then sent to a laboratory for examination.

Cancer research UK explains the process that the Cervical Screening programme involves, as opposed to the HPV DIY test kits:

“Cervical screening is a way of preventing cancer. It tests for a virus called high risk human papilloma virus (HPV). High risk HPV can cause cervical cells to become abnormal. Most cases of cervical cancer are linked to high risk HPV. 

The cervix is part of the female reproductive system. It is the lowest part of the womb and is at the top of the vagina. A nurse takes a sample of cells from the cervix using a small soft brush (smear test) and sends the sample to the laboratory.”

There is therefore a chance that cervical cancer in some women will be missed, because HPV does NOT have to be present in the cells of the vagina, for it to be present in the cervix.

However supporters of the use of home DIY kits say that these self-test kits will save thousands of lives each year because so many women are reluctant to go to their GPs and clinics for a conventional smear test for numerous reasons, with embarrassment being the most common reason. The annual figures for the Cervical Screening programme uptake shows around a 13% drop currently, with London having the lowest level of uptake amongst its female and transgender patients.

There is a video available to watch here, which shows how easy it is to use the DIY testing kit when you receive it (if you live in the London area) The kit comes with clear instructions and information about the kit and what it does.

Social and 'Reality TV' media has created even more reasons to cause embarrassment as women are continually presurised into seeing their bodies as imperfect and brainwashed into believing body and pubic hair is 'dirty' and unhygienic - when in fact the opposite is true. The conditioning continues to be enforced by the so-called 'beauty industry' as it strives to maximise profits on the back of creating body-guilt.

This has led to a situation where so-called 'bikini line' waxing is on the increase, whilst cervical smear tests are rapidly falling. A BBC video report shows the lack of knowledge about the tests done at clinics and shows a discussion between several women and a nurse. You can watch it here

A study by Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust found that 34 per cent of women surveyed were too embarrassed to attend their smear test because of the shape of their vulva, while 31 per cent would avoid attending if they hadn't waxed or shaved their bikini area. And 38 per cent admitted not attending because of concerns over their vagina's smell.

The YouScreen trial, as the DIY testing kit study is called, is being jointly run by NHS England, Public Health England and Kings College London, and will be offered to over 31,000 women and transgender patients who will then follow the instructions on the test and post their swabs back for analysis.

They will receive their result in the post, and if HPV is detected they will be contacted for a follow-up appointment.
Dr Anita Lim, from King’s College London who is leading the study, quoted in the Evening Standard newspaper said:

“Self-sampling is a game-changer for cervical screening.

We know many women aren’t coming forward for screening and almost half of women in some parts of London aren’t up to date with their cervical screening. It’s an intimate procedure and a variety of barriers can stop people from attending, even though it can be a life-saving test.

This simple and convenient swab means it can be done in the privacy and comfort of your own home.

Women who don’t come for regular screening are at the highest risk of developing cervical cancer, so it is crucial that we find ways like this to make screening easier and protect women from what is a largely preventable cancer.”
The YouScreen study will run until December 2021.

But there are those who believe that the Government wants these tests done in order to save money for the new US Healthcare led Integrated Care Systems designed to replace the NHS, in addition to its stated aim of using technology to mitigate the huge shortage in doctors and nurses as well as GPs in the UK presently.

Furthermore, it is also part of the new policy of making individuals responsible for their own healthcare and to ensure that the country’s healthcare service provides procedures to only those patients where profit can be made.

Currently US companies are busy assessing every patient in the UK to determine those patients that are high cost and the service3s they can stop providing that are not profitable, just as has been done in the USA.

Indeed 31 clinical procedures previously done by the NHS, have been withdrawn already, with more to come! The question is, will the conventional Cervical Screening Programme become one of them?

The Unionsafety E-library contains several leaflets on the NHS Cervical Screening programme and the details of how a clinic based smear test is completed. Search using the word 'cervical'.

Source: Cancer Research UK  / NHS / EveningStandard / ITV News / Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust / BBC News

Pic: Bak to News icon link

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