The family of a local woman who passed away from cervical cancer when she was just 23 have welcomed news of a screening test which can be done at home.
Sorcha Glenn wasn’t eligible for a routine smear test prior to her diagnosis as she was under 25. She died after a year-long battle with cervical cancer and her family set up a charity in her memory, ‘Team Sorcha’.
The charity has been campaigning for smear testing on demand and Sorcha’s mum Christina now hopes the self-sampling test will be made available to women under 25.
It was announced at the NCRI Cancer Conference in Glasgow earlier this week that researchers have developed a non-invasive test to detect cervical pre-cancer by analysing urine and swab samples collected by women themselves.
The researchers said the self-sampling test had proved popular with women taking part in the study and this meant that it was likely to improve participation in cervical cancer screening programmes.
The work has been called “promising” and a potential “game-changer” by charities.
Researchers say that larger trials are needed, but it is hoped the tests could be available on the NHS within five years.
Cervical cancer is the fourth most frequently occurring cancer in women in the world.
In 2018, there were an estimated 570,000 new cases of cervical cancer and 310,000 women died from the disease.
Sorcha’s mum Christina said the self-sampling test was ‘very, very promising’.
“We would hope it will be made available to women under 25 and over 64, who are currently not routinely screened. The smear test isn’t there to detect cancer, it is there to prevent cancer. This will be another way to screen for early worrying signs of cancer.”
She said that there will still be a place for the current smear test, but self-sampling ‘will be a positive thing for women who for whatever reason don’t attend their doctors when they are invited for screening’.
“There is a multitude of reasons for women not attending, not just being busy or because they are scared. These women could be disabled or they may have gone through trauma and just feel more comfortable in their own home.
“We hope it will encourage more women to get screened either at home or at a surgery.”
Christina said the charity will continue to campaign for smear on demand. “We will keep consistently working for that and there is no turning back. We will get it done. It is a recommendation that women under 25 are not screened for cervical cancer, in the same way as it is a recommendation we eat five portions of fruit and vegetables every day.
“The self-sampling test will be another preventative tool to give women reassurance.
“We would hope it is the first of many advancements in the fight against cervical cancer. If made available to women under 25 and over 64, it could take stress and worry away for them and would also take a great deal of stress off GP surgeries.”