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Opinion split over DIY smear tests

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Young women have been warned by cervical cancer experts against buying DIY smear tests over the internet.

Dr Anne Szarewski, from the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine in London, sounded the warning as online pharmacy DrThom launched its kits.

The clinical consultant said the kits could see women under 30 being told they have the sexually transmitted infection that causes cervical cancer, when it would actually clear up on its own without treatment.

The new test, which costs £115, detects changes in genetic material in cells affected by human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes most cases of cervical cancer.

The service is being aimed at those who find going for smear tests embarrassing, busy career women, or younger people who fall outside the current age group for screening on the NHS.

Women in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland receive NHS screening from the age of 20 but those in England are only eligible from the age of 25.

Dr Szarewski said: “For women under 30 I don’t think there’s a call for HPV testing. It’s going to create a lot of worry among women.”

Nick Wales, consultant gynaecologist at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in London, and one of the medical team overseeing the test service, said: “I believe within 10 years all cervical screening will be done this way.”

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