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Health News: May

Home tests bid to reduce cancer rates

Women are to be offered the chance to carry out smear tests at home in a bid to cut the rates of cervical cancer.

The pilot scheme will see some women given self-sampling kits in London and north-east England. 

It comes as take-up of cervical screening hits a 20-year low, with concern that embarrassment could make some people miss tests.

The home testing could be a "game-changer", according to the charity Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust. 

The kits test for human papillomavirus, the virus that causes 99 percent of cervical cancer cases.

Recent worries about the low rate of women having the test led to the first cervical screening advert to be launched in England earlier this month. The NHS wants 80 percent of women between ages of 25 and 49 to be tested every 3 years. It wants the same proportion of women ages 50 to 64 to be screened every five years. 

But in some areas of England, less than half of the eligible women are having the test. 

Robert Music, chief executive of Jo's Trust, said he was delighted at the pilot scheme. He said: "Introduction of self sampling will be of enormous benefit to many people, including survivors of sexual violence and women with a physical disability."

Women aged 25 to 64 who are eligible for screening but are at least six months overdue for the test, will be invited to take part in the pilot at participating GP surgeries.

How tech can tackle loneliness

Tech company Vodafone has announced a series free 'TechConnect' master classes in a bid to help older people feel confident using new technology ans help them stay connected to their communities for longer.

The announcement responds to new research conducted dby Vodafone which found that more than 1.5 million people in the UK aged 50 years and older suffer with 'chronic loneliness', The report 'Harnessing technology to tackle loneliness' suggests that technology can play a vital role in alleviating loneliness in older people by keeping them connected to their home, family and friends.

According to ONS data, a third of those aged 65 or older identified themselves as only "a little confident" or "not confident at all" in their ability to use electronic devices for essential online activities. 

The new findings suggest that technology can be used alongside more traditional community services help social interaction and that learning how to use it more carefully can reduce loneliness.

The woman who can smell Parkinson's

A Scottish woman who astonished doctors with her ability to detect Parkinson's disease through smell has helped scientists find what causes the odour.

Researchers in Manchester said they had identified the molecules on the skin linked to the smell and hope it could lead to early detection. 

The study was inspired by Joy Milne, a 68-year-old retired nurse from Perth.

She noticed the 'musky' smell on her husband Les, who was years later diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.

Joy, who has worked with the University of Manchester on the research for three years, has been named in a paper being published in the journal ACS Central Science. The research revealed that a number of compounds, particularly hippuric acid, eicosane, and octadecanal, were found in higher than usual concentrations on the skin of Parkinson's patients.

They are contained in sebum, the oily secretion that coats everybody's skin, but which is often produced in greater quantity by people with Parkinson's, making them more likely to develop a skin complaint, seborrheic dermatitis. 

Lead author Prof Perdita Barran, from the school of chemistry at the University of Manchester, said: "We found some compounds that are more present in people with Parkinson's disease and the reason we've discovered them is because Joy Milne could smell a difference.

"So we designed some experiments using a mass spectrometer to do what Joy can do when she smells these things on people with Parkinson's."

One in 500 people in the UK has Parkinson's and that rises to about one in 100 among the over-60s.

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