What's the alternative to smear tests?

S5 Test for Cervical Cancer

A simple urine test called the S5 Test could ensure that more women get tested for cervical cancer.

Currently, women have to see a gynaecologist, GP or nurse practitioner to have a smear test. 

Unfortunately, one in four do not act on their invitation to book smears which means it can be too late to save their lives if they develop cancerous cells. Last year in the UK alone, 850 women died of cervical cancer.

There are still women out there who are scared to book in for a smear test

Researchers from  Queen Mary University of London showed that the new test – which uses urine samples and vaginal swaps and can be used at home –  was 100% per cent accurate at detecting invasive cervical cancer, and 93 per cent accurate at detecting pre-cancer in women who had an HPV positive test.

The S5 test measures chemical changes that are detectable in urine or self-collected vaginal fluid samples to gauge a woman's cancer risk. 

A high score suggests there is an increased risk of a pre-cancer lesion being present. 

The at-home tests could be available via the health service in five years.

In the meantime, women are encouraged to attend their smear test appointments and have any unusual symptoms checked by a gynaecologist.  

Consultant Gynaecologist Tania Adib at The Medical Chambers Kensington says: ‘There are still women out there who are scared to book in for a smear test and put off going far longer than they should. 

She adds: ’It’s important to remember that failing to go for a smear test could have a very serious implication and every woman should be actively encouraged to make an appointment as soon as they are invited to do so. 

Every women aged 25 to 49 should go for a smear every 3 years. Those aged 50 to 64 a should attend every 5 years. 

For those over 65, it is advised that anyone who hasn’t been screened since the age of 50 should be tested, or those who have recently had abnormal tests and need further investigation.

If you have had an abnormal smear test, you will be recommended to go for is a more detailed examination of the cervix, a colposcopy. The doctor performing the colposcopy will take a closer look at the cervix using a specialist microscope to discover any abnormality. As with a smear test, a speculum is used – the difference being that a high-powered microscope is involved too. 

According to Miss Adib, regular appointments with a gynaecologist can give women peace of mind and ensure any abnormalities are spotted and treated: ‘Regularly checking in with a gynaecologist should be treated with the same level of importance as any other medical check-up - so make sure you factor in time for a consultation at least one a year.'

Abnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. Full medical glossary
Malignant, a tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. Full medical glossary
The basic unit of all living organisms. Full medical glossary
Relating either to the cervix (the neck of the womb) or to the cervical vertebrae in the neck (cervical spine). Full medical glossary
Any neck-like structure; most commonly refers to the neck of the uterus. Full medical glossary
Close examination of the cervix of the uterus using a magnifying instrument with attached light source, known as a colposcope. Full medical glossary
A viral infection affecting the respiratory system. Full medical glossary
An abbreviation for human papilloma virus, a sexually transmitted virus that can cause genital warts and may also have a role in the development of various cancers. Full medical glossary
a general term to cover any abnormality such as a wound, infection, abscess or tumour. Full medical glossary
per vaginam Full medical glossary
An instrument used gently to widen an opening, so that the inside can be more easily seen. Full medical glossary
The muscula passage, forming part of the femal reproductive system, between the cervix and the external genitalia. Full medical glossary