A “GAME-changing” at-home pee test could replace GP smear checks within three years, experts claim.
A pilot trial found analysing urine samples was more accurate at picking up early cervical cancer than current methods.
The new technique promises to revolutionise screening for the disease.
And it could allow women to be tested from the comfort of their own home, without needing to visit the doctor.
Screening at all-time low
Uptake for NHS cervical cancer screening is at a 21-year low, with embarrassment blamed for putting millions off.
Infection with human papillomavirus (HPV) is responsible for 95 per cent of cases of the disease.
The new non-invasive test, developed by Queen Mary University of London, looks for subtle DNA changes that indicate women have the bug.
It is also better than current checks at predicting whether the infection is likely to trigger cancer.
Campaigners said the new test promises to be a “game-changer” for millions of women.
The breakthrough follows The Sun’s #CheersForSmears campaign earlier this year.
Five million women have failed to turn up for the last cervical cancer check in the UK.
Health bosses warn two people a day are dying as a result.
Speaking at the NCRI Cancer Conference in Glasgow, lead researcher Dr Belinda Nedjai said: “I think at-home wee tests could replace smear tests for cervical cancer screening.
“If all goes well, we could see it introduced within three to five years.
“In our pilot, we found it was as accurate as current checks, but more specific – in that it was better at identifying patients with pre-cancerous cells.
“The study indicated that women much preferred doing a test at home than attending a doctor’s surgery. So the hope is that it would also boost uptake.”
Save NHS cash and lives
Experts claim the new test could save the NHS cash by slashing the numbers of patients who are needlessly given a follow-up procedure called a colposcopy.
The study, involving 620 women with abnormal smear tests or positive HPV results, asked participants to collect pee samples.
Scientists found the urine check identified high-risk pre-cancerous cells in 96 per cent of samples compared with 73 per cent with current testing.
The team are now planning to trial the technique on 100,000 participants – and if successful, hope to roll it out nationally.
More than 3,000 women a year are diagnosed with cervical cancer, with nearly 1,000 dying.
Robert Music, chief executive, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust: “The findings from this research could be a game-changer.
“It could mean those requiring treatment are identified faster and reduce the number of women having to go for potentially unnecessary investigations at colposcopy.
“This would also save the NHS precious funds.
“The findings are exciting and could mean that new methods for cervical screening are getting closer to reality. For women who find the current methods of cervical screening difficult, it could mean they can access screening in a far more acceptable and accessible way.”