Some experts believe a simple at-home test now exists that can screen people for HPV – the leading cause of cervical cancer. The National Cancer Institute has released plans for a future study that will involve approximately 5,000 female participants to decide if cervical cancer self-screening at home closely compares to getting checked by a physician. Roughly 14,000 Americans will be diagnosed with cervical cancer, and approximately 4,000 cases will prove fatal. But this cancer is easily preventable, as it is the simplest one to screen for.
Cervical Cancer Self-Screening
Without proper insurance or regular medical care, cervical cancer often goes undetected in women simply because they haven’t been screened. By collecting vaginal and cervical cells to screen for Human Papillomavirus (HPV) – which causes almost all cervical cancers – women could soon be screened right at home. Federal officials are hopeful that this new research will speed up the process of creating a cervical cancer self-screening test approved by the FDA. Instead of using individual companies that create tests for clinicians, experts are hoping to work with companies and academic institutions in a “public-private partnership.” The National Cancer Institute will have a hand in all the data and analysis from the study. At-home HPV testing is already making a difference in Australia and the Netherlands, and experts are also looking to better inform adolescents and their parents of the importance of vaccinating, as HPV is sexually transmitted. Officials are still advising anyone who has been vaccinated to continue regular screenings, and this is more likely to happen if people can self-screen at home and not have to go into an office where they may not feel as comfortable. For many people, cost and access to a clinic is also an issue, even for young people who still qualify to be on their parents’ insurance plans. Further, adults may have trouble getting time off work or finding care for their children while they visit their doctor to care for themselves, which is another great argument for pushing at-home screenings if they are found to be accurate.
According to a 2018 study, at-home tests were found to be similarly accurate to tests performed by medical experts. There is also talk of a potential urine-based HPV test, which would be much easier and less daunting to do at home, or in a clinic. In order to prove at-home HPV testing comparable to clinical tests, four HPV testing companies will pay for the tests in a trial as well as “future fees related to pursuing license applications through the FDA.” If an FDA-approved home test is created, it will be of the utmost importance that women who can’t afford or don’t have the time for clinical visits take advantage of these tests. However, the cost of submitting the test for results is not yet known.
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