Screening Yourself for Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer do it yourself screenings could save lives

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) While they are readily available in this country, women in other parts of the world don't have access to cervical cancer screenings - pap smears. A new, simpler test is being studied to overcome these barriers.

A recent trial demonstrated that a do-it-yourself (DIY) cervical cancer screen is more effective than traditional pap smears in detecting earliest signs of the disease. The tool could potentially prevent cancer in thousands of women who live in areas where pap smears aren't available and in women who can't or won't visit health providers to be tested.

"DIY cervical cancer screens on the horizon."

Professor Attila Lorincz from Queen Mary, University of London, led the study that involved more than 20,000 women in Mexico. Roughly half of the participants took the test at home, and half received a traditional pap smear at a clinic.

The DIY screen detected better than four times as many cervical cancers as the pap smears. It also caught  more than three times as many pre-cancerous lesions, which when treated can prevent the disease from developing.

The women widely accepted the test and seemed to prefer this type of screening over traditional methods.

Researchers report that the test has its flaws. It tends to produce more false positives in healthy women. Further study is needed to resolve these issues.

Cervical cancer kills 273,000 women around the world every year. It's more prevalent and serious in poorer countries where women aren't screened because they have no access to testing.

The DIY test is taken by a woman in her home and the sample is evaluated by an automated system. This eliminates the need for healthcare professionals to give or evaluate the test.

Professor Lorincz, who helped develop the test, said, "Cervical cancer has a devastating global impact because it affects thousands of women of all ages."  She says this tool could actually prevent the disease in a new and easier way and save lives doing so.

She adds that the test is sensitive in identifying women at risk of developing cervical cancer, something that's extremely important since many are screened only once or twice in their lives.

Findings from the study were published November 1, 2011 in The Lancet.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 8, 2011
Last Updated:
November 8, 2011