A new project using a home test to detect human papillomavirus (HPV) is being piloted in Hull and Manchester, thanks to £1.5million in funding from the charity Yorkshire Cancer Research.

In 2019, the NHS cervical screening program shifted from looking for cellular changes to screening for HPV, which is linked to almost all cases of cervical cancer. However, women over the age of 65 are not automatically invited to cervical screening, and women in this age group will have stopped screening before this change.

The ‘Catch-up Screen’ project, led by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) in collaboration with the University of Manchester and the University of Hull, will offer an HPV test to these women by working with GPs local . It is expected that 10,000 women from Hull and Manchester will be invited to take part in this project, which aims to find out if home testing is an effective way to reduce cancer in this older age group.

Unlike traditional cervical screening, which can sometimes be painful, the Catch-up Screen project will only ask women to provide a urine sample, which is an effective way to test for HPV. The team hopes this will encourage women who have not been screened regularly to participate.

Women who test positive for HPV will be referred for further testing and treatment if needed.

The NHS cervical screening program is one of the most successful in the world. But in England, where half of all cervical cancer deaths are now in women over 65, we need to make sure these women don’t miss out on vital screening just because the national program stops at age 65.

This funding will allow us to find out if a simple home urine test can effectively reduce the number of cancer deaths in women aged 65 and over. We will look at HPV prevalence and pre-cancer and cancer diagnoses, as well as test uptake rates, to help us decide if these tests could be used more widely.”

Clare Gilham, Assistant Professor at LSHTM

The first women from Hull and Manchester will be invited to participate in this research in April 2023.