According to a study conducted in Mexico, home human papillomavirus (HPV) testing may actually be a more effective screening test and preventative measure for cervical cancer versus cytology (evaluation of cells, sometimes called smear testing) based on pap smears.
This study may be most beneficial for women coming from both developing countries and those not privileged enough to have access to pap smears or who opt not to get a pap smear from their gynecologist.
Cervical cancer kills around 273,000 women each year and is more prevalent among developing countries, those which have little access to important screening tests.
The study reveals that the home HPV tests could detect 3 times as many precancerous conditions and detect 4.2 more invasive cancers versus pap smears. Pap smears can detect cervical cell abnormalities but they can’t actually detect viruses.
Home HPV tests are conducted by collecting cervical cell samples using a brush, sent afterwards to laboratories for testing.
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The downside to the home HPV tests, however, was that it also posed a high false-positive rate. Women whose results came out as positive for precancerous conditions were eventually found to not have cancer or pre-cancer cells at all.
Because it’s more convenient for more women, more women, especially those in poorer countries, are expected to screen themselves for cervical cancer, and by it, doctors hope that the number of cervical cancer cases will be significantly reduced.