The brush is a so-called home test and it is the region's new, big preventative measure to lower the number of women diagnosed with cervical cancer.
From the year-end, women across the entire Capital Region of Denmark will receive the offer of testing themselves for cervical cancer at home. The Capital Region of Denmark will thereby become the first public authority in the world to offer a cancer preventative home test as part of the cervical cancer screening programme.
The home test programme will cover the women who, despite invitations, have not accepted the free screenings offered by their GP, and Sophie Hæstorp Andersen, Chairman of the Regional Council, is delighted about the new initiative.
"We are so pleased about this. Cervical cancer is a preventable cancer, and with the HPV home test, the Capital Region of Denmark is at the forefront of using modern biotechnology to reduce the number of women diagnosed with cancer in the region," she said.
The test works
The HPV home test has been tested at Hvidovre Hospital for a number of years. Hvidovre hospital has investigated the level of interest for an HPV home test among 24,000 women living in the region.
Common for all the women questioned was that they, for one reason or another, had not accepted the free screening. And the conclusion was clear: the home test prevents cervical cancer and saves lives.
"About 5,000 women tested themselves for cervical cancer at home and sent the brush to us for diagnosis. Amongst the 5,000, we discovered around 200 women who required treatment for pre-cancerous cell growth, but we also found women who had already developed cervical cancer. And because these women did not participate in the screening, the illness would not have been discovered before it had really taken hold," said Jesper Bonde, Senior Researcher at the Department of Pathology at Hvidovre Hospital.
Prevention or early treatment
He is backed by Sophie Hæstorp Andersen, who regards the new programme as fantastic news for women living in the Region.
"Cervical cancer is a terrible illness, with a large group of patients to be found among younger women with families and children. Screening for cervical cancer prevents cancer, and therefore it is very important that we be able to screen more women with this home test. The earlier a diagnosis can be made, the less invasive the treatment needs to be and thus a higher chance of recovery," she said, and further explained that with this new initiative, the Capital Region of Denmark - as the first public authority in Denmark - fulfils the requirement of Cancer Plan IV in regard to increased participation in cervical cancer screening.
"The requirements of Cancer Plan IV are increased participation, increased accessibility, increased screening quality and the use of new technology. With the HPV home test, we are fulfilling all those requirements," said the Chairman.
The next step
The region's HPV home test project will be led by Hvidovre Hospital, and according to Jesper Bonde, the time leading up to the start of the programme should be used to prepare the hospital for the task, as well as fine-tuning the programme.
"We will continue working on the programme based on our experience from the trial period and adjust the programme from being temporary to being permanent. During the trial period, we found a few things that needed adjustment in order to ensure maximum effect and user-friendliness. For example, we need to create a new and updated website, we need to optimise our ordering app, and we'd like to translate our information material into even more languages than the current versions in Danish, Turkish, Arabic, French and English," said Jesper Bonde, and also said that the extraordinary results from Hvidovre Hospital have elicited great interest abroad.
"We are collaborating with the Dutch authorities which in 2017 also want to offer an HPV home test to women not participating in the general cervical cancer screening programme," he said and concluded:
"Sweden, Norway, England and Australia are also very interested in the Capital Region of Denmark's experiences with the HPV home test".
Facts about screening and HPV
- Human Papillomavirus, HPV, is the virus that causes cervical cancer
- In the past 40 years, cervical cancer screening has reduced the number of cancer cases by about two-thirds.
- 3 out of 4 Danish women between the age of 23-65 accept the offer of screening when they are invited. 1 out of 4 are not screened.
- Half of all cervical cancer cases are diagnosed amongst the 1/4 of women who do not get screened. HPV home tests are an alternative for this group.
- The first brushes will be sent out in early 2017, and 80-90,000 invitations are expected to be sent out to women living in the Capital Region of Denmark during the forthcoming year.
- Experience from Hvidovre Hospital shows that about 30% of women who receive an invitation for an HPV home test will be screened: about 20 % accept the offer of a home test, while about 10% will go to their GP after receiving an invitation for an HPV home test.
Improving cervical cancer prevention requires thinking outside the box and focusing on screening all women. The HPV home test is part of the solution.
The home test cannot replace the test provided by the women's own GP.
The screening provided by a GP can be used to test for cell abnormalities and for HPV, while the home test can only be used for HPV. The current test provided by a GP can also be used for additional diagnostics.
And if you are HPV positive after taking a home test, you must visit your GP. The final diagnosis is made after a screening test taken by your GP.
- Sophie Hæstorp Andersen(Danish Social Democrats), Chairman of the Regional Council, Capital Region of Denmark via Public Relations, tel: +45 70 20 95 88.
- Jesper Bonde, Senior Researcher, Department of Pathology, Hvidovre Hospital via communications consultant Andreas Fruensgaard, tel: +45 38 62 17 19