A study that included 20,000 Mexican women who conducted their own home HPV (human papillomavirus) tests has shown promise. Half the women did home testing while the other half went to clinics for regular smear testing. British researchers who helped to create the test (home HPV tests are available in Britain) led the study. The tests showed to be even more effective at detecting the virus that causes cervical cancer than traditional tests done in a doctor's office.
According to a Reuters article reported by Yahoo health news, breast and cervical cancers are on the rise in developing nations and women are dying from these diseases at younger ages. The Reuters report indicated that "virtually all cervical cancer cases are linked to genital infection with HPV, the most common viral infection of the reproductive tract".
EmpowHER's cervical cancer article "Top 10 Facts About Cervical Cancer" states that cervical cancer is the second leading cause of cancer for women globally, and the fourth in the United States. There are almost 13,000 new cases found in the United States every year.
Many women in wealthier regions like the United States, Australia and Europe can rely on visits every 1-3 years in their doctors offices where testing is done via a pelvic exam known as a Pap smear or Pap test. Samples are sent to a lab where a qualified health care professional conducts an examination to check for HPV that is responsible for the vast majority of cervical cancer cases.
Poorer women, however, have far less access -- if any -- to this kind of preventive health care. They also have little access to the HPV vaccination. Having an inexpensive test (cost is not yet known, but made in large quantities and with the purpose of helping those in developing countries, this test should be affordable) that can be done without clinic costs -- and with an automated testing system.
During the research, women seemed to prefer the at-home test and results showed that the home tests were four times more likely to find signs of HPV/cervical cancer and four times more likely to find signs of pre-cancerous cells in the cervix.
One downside is that false positives were more common in home tests, leading to further testing and needless worry for women. This can possibly negate the cost-effectiveness of home testing. Researchers believe that more work on developing these tests is needed to fix this problem.
Would you prefer to use a home test for cervical cancer rather than visiting a doctor for a Pap test? Do you think you'd trust the test?
Reuters via Yahoo News. DIY cervical cancer test could save lives: study. Web. Nov. 02, 2011.
EmpowHer. Top 10 Facts about Cervical Cancer. Web. Nov. 02, 2011. https://www.empowher.com/cervical-cancer/content/top-10-facts-about-cervical-cancer
Reviewed November 3, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith