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Home testing to tackle illness

WITH thousands of women not taking up the offer of a smear test for cervical cancer, moves are being made to roll out self-sampling kits to tackle the illness. Emma Harper, South Scotland MSP, has welcomed progress towards the Scottish rollout. Miss Harper is a former nurse and is pictured in her nursing days. She has worked with the Scottish Government and NHS Dumfries and Galloway on the issue of self-sampling for cervical cancer screening – raised a question directly with the minister for Public Health last week. In the question, she asked whether delivery of self-testing could be expedited in light of Covid-19 to limit the number of women physically presenting for appointments, whilst simultaneously allowing some cancer screening services to restart. Cervical cancer is a preventable disease yet is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers globally. Self-sampling screening test processes have already been developed in Denmark, Sweden, Poland and the Netherlands and have proven to both reduce the numbers of people receiving a late diagnosis of the disease and increase the number of people who take up the offer of a test. The self-test swab kit tests for Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) with HPV being the cause of 99.7pc of cervical cancers. In a statement, Miss Harper's office said: "Currently, across Dumfries and Galloway there are around 6,000 women who have defaulted, or not taken up their offer of a smear test which screens for cervical cancer. Across Scotland this number is expected to be around 192,000." NHS Dumfries and Galloway originally started the ground-breaking work on a self-test for the board area and are now working with the Scottish Government to allow the wider-rollout of the test. Miss Harper said: “Six thousand women have not attended for their smear test. This seems like a number that can be reduced by implementing self-sampling screening. “I welcome the opportunity to raise the issue of self-test screening for cervical cancer directly with the Minister for Public Health. This is an issue which I have been pursuing for some time, and I thank NHS Dumfries and Galloway for originally leading the way and spearheading this work ahead of partnering with the Scottish Government to allow a Scotland-wide roll out. “The self-sampling model has already proven to reduce late diagnoses of cervical cancer across various European countries and it has also increased the number of women presenting for a test. Based on the international evidence, I have asked whether a self-test model could be expedited here in Scotland, given the fact that cancer screening programmes have currently stopped due to coronavirus. “I thank Dr William Forson, Dr Gwen Baxter and the team at NHS Dumfries and Galloway who put in the groundwork for this model of self-sampling for cervical cancer screening to be possible and I look forward to speedy progress from the Scottish Government to allow for self-sampling, and therefore some screening services, to be resumed.” Dr William Forson, Consultant Obstetrician Gynacologist, added: “Ethics approval and funding is in place and we are currently working with the National Screening Programme and the Scottish Government and hope to roll this test out soon.” Joe Fitzpatrick, Minister for Public Health, said; “We're looking at how all the screening programmes can be brought back in but I've specifically asked if we can take forward the work around home screening for cervical cancer. “Whatever we do, we have to make sure that patient safety around any testing or screening that happens, particularly at home, is robust, and that we have all the assurances that we need. However, we are looking to see whether that work could be taken forward”.

<< back Published: 27 May 2020, 09:59

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