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Thousands of Hull women to receive at-home HPV tests in new study

Thousands of women in Hull will receive at-home urine tests in the post as part of a new ‘catch-up’ cervical screening study funded by Yorkshire Cancer Research.

Hand holding an empty sample pot

Women who are no longer automatically invited for screening as part of the national cervical screening programme and missed out on recent improvements in the standard NHS testing process will be invited to take part. Those with HPV will be able to access further tests and, where necessary, receive treatment to prevent cancer developing.

The ‘Catch-up Screen’ study, led by Ms Clare Gilham and Professor Julian Peto at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, aims to find out if women are willing to use the at-home tests and whether the tests can reduce the number of cancers diagnosed in this older age group.

“Almost all cases of cervical cancer can be prevented through screening. The HPV urine test is a simple way to find out a person’s risk of developing cervical cancer."

Dr Stuart Griffiths, Director of Research at Yorkshire Cancer Research said: “Women in this older age group are less likely to survive cervical cancer than younger women. That’s why it’s important we find those at highest risk and ensure they receive the tests and treatment they need.”

Cervical screening is available through the NHS to women aged 25 to 64. Also known as a smear test, it usually involves taking a small sample of cells from the cervix to look for signs of HPV. If HPV is found, then the same sample of cells is inspected for any pre-cancerous changes.

HPV testing to identify those at highest risk of cervical cancer was first introduced into the national screening programme in 2019. Those with HPV can now be checked more regularly so that pre-cancerous cell changes are found as early as possible. Those without HPV are at extremely low risk of developing cancer.

Women aged 65 to 79 are no longer automatically invited for cervical screening and are likely to have missed out on HPV testing if they attended their last screening before the change in 2019, or if they did not attend their last test after 2019. Since HPV does not cause symptoms, they may not know they have the virus.

In the ‘Catch-up Screen’ study, a urine sample will first be checked for HPV. Women who test positive will then be invited to a hospital appointment with a gynaecologist, who will take a closer look at the cervix and if appropriate, offer the patient a smear test.

Around 4 in 5 people will have HPV at some point in their lives, but it usually doesn’t cause any problems. In a small number of cases, the immune system is unable to clear the infection, and this can cause the cells of the cervix to change over time.

Ms Gilham said: “Unlike traditional screening, which can sometimes be painful or embarrassing, Catch-up Screen involves women providing a urine sample from the privacy of their home."

“Urine testing has been shown to be as good as traditional smear tests taken by a nurse for the purpose of HPV testing. It is hoped that urine testing will encourage women who were not screened regularly to become engaged.”


Nikki Brady, PR Manager

Yorkshire Cancer Research

Tel: 07814 255159