The future of cervical screening with self-sampling

In January, 10,000 women and people with a cervix across London were invited to trial self-sampling cervical screening kits. The trial looks set to modernise cervical screenings, providing an additional option to receiving a vital test.

Following in the steps of countries currently providing self-sampling cervical screenings, including Australia and Denmark, a new trial is underway in the UK. Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust’s head of policy and communications, Kate Sanger has been working directly with the current London based trial.

What has been the feedback to self-sampling in these initial stages?

The feedback has been really positive. We want self-sampling to be offered as a choice. It is a massive amendment to cervical screening, and we wouldn’t want this to become your only option.

In other countries, we’ve seen a 10 per cent increase in attendance and high-grade cell changes – that are detected through self-sampling – are on average detected 2.3 times higher.

Also, 99 per cent of people can do self-sampling accurately, the evidence shows.

How do you hope self-sampling will break down barriers some disabled women and people with a cervix face?

It would hopefully help enable people, both those who cannot leave the house to those who have a range of conditions, to access the test. If you do have a positive test, if it comes back with HPV, you will still need to go to your local GP to have another test done.

This doesn’t take away all the challenges and factors for people with a physical disability. We do need to keep those next steps in mind. But, the majority of people who do the test will not have HPV.

How do you carry out a self-sample?

Self-sampling is a really simple test. It is a swab that takes a sample from your vagina. As it is such a simple test, you don’t have to lie on your back and you don’t have to go to the GP practice. It is a less evasive test; you can do it on your own and at a time and place of your choosing.

How do you hope access to cervical screening changes in the near future?

Everyone is different and has their own barriers and challenges to going for the test, we want to see a choice so you can opt to go to your GP practice, opt to have self-sampling, or go to your sexual health service. The choice element is really important because it will cater for people’s individual needs.

Finally, what advice do you have for someone preparing for their cervical screening?

However you feel, this is completely normal. If you feel able to, speak to your GP about any access needs you may require, this will mean the test will be easier when you are there. Speak to your care team to learn how you might access cervical screening, because every woman and person with a cervix is eligible to access cervical screening and should have that opportunity.

Information on accessing your cervical screening is available from Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust on 0808 802 8000.

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