A new study found that women can check themselves for HPV with a test that's about as effective as the method doctors use. It's unlikely that your gynecologist is going to encourage you to replace the Pap test with an at-home speculum-free procedure anytime soon, but the test could have a big impact for women in developing countries.
For a study published in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology, German researchers had woman test themselves for HPV, then compared their results to those of women tested by doctors using endocervical brush samples, which is part of the Pap test. Per EurekAlert:
The self-sampling device, the Delphi Screener, is a sterile, syringe-like device containing five milliliters of buffered saline. One operates it by plunging the handle, releasing the saline into the vagina, holding it down for five seconds, then releasing the handle, so that the device retrieves the fluid. Next, one plunges the lavage specimens into prelabeled coded tubes, and mails it to the laboratory.
Doctors looked at two groups of women ages 20-30. The first group included 55 women who didn't have HPV according to the doctor's recent test, and the second group of 101 had tests with suspicious results. The women were asked to test themselves using the Delphi Screener, and their results matched what the doctor found for 84% of the first group and 91% of the second group. When asked how easy the self-test was, the women said it was a 12 on a scale of 100, with 0 being easy and 100 being difficult.
The test that uses the Delphi Screener is already being used to screen for cervical cancer in the Netherlands and lead author Yvonne Delere says, "The high sensitivity of this self-sampling method guarantees to identify nearly all HPV-infected women." That's very promising, because it means that women in areas without access to medical personnell could check themselves for cervical cancer, which is the second most common cancer in women worldwide.
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