Rethinking Healthcare

DIY test for cervical cancer

Posting in Cancer

Qiagen's do-it-yourself kit that lets women take their own cell samples to be tested for DNA of the human papillomavirus (HPV), better enabling women in poorer countries.

For millions of women in poorer countries, a do-it-yourself smear could help thwart cancer, New Scientist reports.

About 85% of cervical cancer cases occur in developing countries, where it’s rare to screen for pre-cancerous changes: it’s difficult to obtain samples, and there’s a shortage of scientists to interpret them.

One alternative is to test for DNA from the human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes the disease. Qiagen in Maryland created a kit that lets women collect their own cell samples, which are then sent to a lab.

Fang-Hui Zhao of Peking Union Medical College and colleagues reviewed data from 13,140 women in China who were screened using:

  • self-HPV testing,
  • traditional smear testing, or
  • a visual method that uses acetic acid.

They found that the self-HPV testing was the most effective (about 80%) at detecting early cancer signs.

"Self-HPV testing has potential as a primary screening method for women, regardless of their access to healthcare," Zhao says.

The work was published in JNCI, the journal of the National Cancer Institute. From New Scientist.

Image: HPV / Laboratory of Tumor Virus Biology

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Janet Fang

Contributing Editor

Janet Fang has written for Nature, Discover and the Point Reyes Light. She is currently a lab technician at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. She holds degrees from the University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure