The study, published today in the British Journal of General Practice and led by Dr Anita Lim from the School of Cancer & Pharmaceutical Sciences, conducted a study at 10 GP practices in East London. 784 women aged 50-64 who were overdue screening were randomised to either receive a letter offering the choice of having a clinician-taken sample without a speculum or a self-sampling kit; or to have usual care.
Researchers found 17% more women were screened when they had the option not to use a speculum during the exam. Instead, a doctor or nurse could take a vaginal sample without a speculum.
Under-screened and unscreened women have the highest risk of developing cervical cancer. Cervical cancer disproportionately affects women over 65. Many women have a fear or dislike of the speculum, and speculum use can be particularly painful for women with menopause.
Screening without the speculum, in addition to self-sampling which requires individuals to obtain a kit and collect their own samples, are desirable options for women at higher risk of cervical cancer.
HPV Self-sampling is set to be a game-changer for cervical screening that will help more women get screened, but we know that some women don’t feel confident taking a sample themselves. In our study we tried out a completely novel approach of having a doctor or nurse take a vaginal swab for cervical screening. We found that offering this alongside self-sampling to older women overdue screening gave an impressive boost to screening uptake that was 17% higher than women offered usual care.– Dr Anita Lim, Senior Epidemiologist, from the School of Cancer & Pharmaceutical Sciences
She added: ‘This uptake is higher than what we’ve seen in previous UK studies offering self-sampling alone. Our study shows that non-speculum clinician sampling is another promising tool for cervical screening to help us get more women screened and one that could easily be integrated into existing clinical care.’