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Home cervical cancer test

16th March 2010

Dutch researchers have found a way for women to test themselves for human papilloma virus (HPV), some forms of which can cause cervical cancer.

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The home detection kit aims ultimately to help improve diagnosis for cervical cancer, and could double the number of women who are diagnosed.

Lead researcher Chris Meijer of Vrije Universiteit Medical Centre in Amsterdam said that he believed it was feasible for women to sample themselves and thereby improve cervical cancer screening programmes.

He said that implementing the new method would provide an immediate payoff and protect women who have a high risk of cervical cancer.

For the purposes of the study, the researchers tested 28,073 women who had skipped their cervical cancer screening in 2005.

The research then followed 27,792 of the women for about half a year.

Using the self-testing device, the women transferred samples of their cervical fluid to the researchers.

The remaining 281 women, who had not appeared for the self-testing study, were tested using the usual method of cervical cancer screening.

The researchers found that women who tested themselves at home increased the total number of women diagnosed, because more women seemed willing to self-diagnose than to go to a doctor.

While only 7,384 of the 28,073 women who were asked to send samples of their cervical fluid ended up doing so, only one in seven of the women who were called in for diagnosis went to the doctor.

Of the women who sent in samples, 76 showed signs of cervical cancer developing, while another 23 showed possible signs of development.

The women who went into the clinic after being requested to do so were twice as likely to have lesions, which can be a sign of cervical cancer, than the women who tested themselves at home.

Meijer said that although the women's compliance rates in the study were not perfect, nearly 100 clinically significant lesions were detected by the self-sampling group.

The researchers said that over half of all cervical cancers occur in women who do not go to routine tests.

Stephen Duffy, professor of cancer screening with Cancer Research UK, said that he felt it was important for women to attend cervical screening appointments, though some find it difficult to do so

He said that self-sampling was an option for women who have cultural reasons not to go to cervical screening appointments.

While there are more than 100 types of HPV, only 13 cause cancer.

Most women's immune systems manage to fend off HPV after the disease is contracted through sexual intercourse.

However, if the disease actively persists within the body, it can damage cells irreparably.

In the UK, self testing has already been introduced by the NHS, and a vaccine against the two most common types of HPV already exists.

 

 

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