DIY cervical cancer test could save lives: study

Wed Nov 2, 2011 5:08am EDT
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By Kate Kelland

LONDON (Reuters) - A do-it-yourself test for cervical cancer could help prevent thousands of cases of the disease in women who don't have easy or regular access to smear tests, scientists said on Wednesday.

The DIY test, which detects the human papillomavirus (HPV) responsible for cervical cancer, was widely accepted in a trial involving 20,000 women in Mexico and was more effective than traditional smear tests at picking up early signs of disease.

British researchers who helped develop the test and led the trial said the results, published in the Lancet medical journal, suggest the DIY kit has the potential to help thousands of women who live in countries where smear testing is difficult or impossible.

Smear tests are conducted by a nurse or doctor and checked manually by a cytologist who makes a judgment after examining a sample under a microscope. The DIY test can be taken by a woman at home and the sample is then assessed by an automated system.

Cancer of the cervix is the second most common cancer in women worldwide, with about 500,000 new cases and 250,000 deaths each year, according to the World Health Organisation.

Virtually all cervical cancer cases are linked to genital infection with HPV, the most common viral infection of the reproductive tract.

Cervical cancer is more common and more deadly in countries where women have no access to screening, meaning cases are often detected too late for treatment to work.

A study in September by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington found that both breast and cervical cancer cases and deaths are rising in many countries, especially in poorer nations where more women are dying at younger ages.   Continued...