Self-Testing for Cervical Cancer May Remove Screening Barriers

Some patients may be unwilling to undergo traditional screening for cervical cancer.

A self-sampling approach to cervical cancer screening for human papillomavirus (HPV) identified twice as many women who are at-risk for HPV, according to a recent study published by the British Journal of Cancer.

The randomized study was the first to compare the efficacy of different screening methods for cervical cancer.

HPV is a common sexually transmitted infection that is known to cause multiple cancers, including cervical, anal, and oral cancers. Although the virus can increase disease risk, it can largely be prevented by a series of vaccines.

Current screening is based on cell sampling and cytology; however, this approach has limited sensitivity and many women choose to forgo the tests, according to the authors.

In the new study, the authors compared current screening techniques against the results of women who conducted self-samples that were submitted for HPV testing.

Included in the trial were 36,390 women aged 30 to 49 years who either took a self-sample for HVP or whose cell sample underwent a cytological analysis. Patients whose test was positive for HPV underwent another test after 4 months and those whose results remained positive were referred to a physician.

During the follow-up period, the researchers tracked the number of women with severe cell changes that could lead to cervical cancer.

Overall, the researchers found that self-sampling was received positively, with 47% of patients opting to participate compared with 39% of patients offered standard testing.

More than twice as many cell changes were observed among patients who conducted self-sampling for HPV compared with those who underwent cytology testing, according to the study. Significantly, the authors found that time to diagnosis was shorter for self-sampling patients, which could improve treatment outcomes.

Self-sampling may make it easier to reach patients who previously chose not to undergo traditional screening methods, according to the authors.

The analysis also revealed that self-sampling and HPV testing could reduce the cost of cervical cancer screening by half, while doubling the efficacy of current methods, according to the authors.

These findings suggest that self-sampling for HPV could reduce screening costs and the number of new cervical cancer cases.

Another recent study showed that testing for HPV, in addition to a pap test, increases cervical precancer detection and shortens time to detection. The study showed that HPV testing increased the detection of cervical precancers by 15.8%.