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At-Home HPV Testing: Editorial

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Wellness related image Photo: Getty Images

While some studies in the United States have shown that at-home testing for HPV has been accurate and cost effective I have yet to hear mention of HPV tests which were being considered for use by U.S. women at any time in the future.

An article in Medical New Today refers to an article in The Lancet and speaks to the positive benefits of at-home testing. This type of test would be extremely useful not only in resource-deprived parts of developed countries, but also in developing countries, which often do not have any type of cervical screening program for women at all.

While the study referred to in this article provides what would appear to be compelling evidence for the use of such as test, statistics can sometimes be deceiving. These at-home tests showed the following:

“9.8% of women had HPV, with 0.38% of women having an abnormal cytology rate. The researchers found that HPV tests revealed 117 women with CIN 2 or worse per 10,000 compared with 34 women with CIN 2 or worse per 10 000 identified by cytology, demonstrating a 3.4 times greater relative sensitivity of HPV compared with cytology. In addition they also found that HPV tests detected 4.2 times more invasive cancers (30 per 10,000) compared with cytology (7 per 10 000), however, the positive predictive value of HPV testing for CIN 2 or worse was 12.2%. This means that only 12% of home based HPV test cases referred for colposcopy actually proved positive for CIN 2 or worse by histology compared with 90% for cytology.”

So, while the tests showed a higher number of individuals with CIN2 or worse, ultimately upon colposcopy it was found that only 12 percent of these individuals' results actually were consistent with the home-based test results.

Home-based testing is certainly something which would assist in reducing the number of patients who are simply non-compliant, when it comes to making their scheduled screening appointments. However, unless the outcome of those tests are ultimately consistent with current methods, they would simply not be cost-effective nor beneficial to the patient.

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