There's a New, Less-Invasive Way to Test for HPV

FDA approves self-testing kits to expand access to screening
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted May 16, 2024 12:57 PM CDT
There's a New, Less-Invasive Way to Test for HPV
A 3D rendering of the human papillomavirus (HPV).   (Wikimedia/NIAID)

The FDA is making it a whole lot easier to test for human papillomavirus, which can cause six types of cancer and accounts for more than 95% of cervical cancers. HPV is typically detected through cell samples collected from a woman's cervix during a Pap smear. But in a US first, women will be able to collect samples on their own, either at doctors' offices, urgent-care clinics, mobile clinics, or pharmacies. Eventually, they could even perform these tests at home, the Washington Post reports. The FDA has approved self-testing kits separately manufactured by BD (Becton, Dickinson and Company) and Roche that allow women to collect vaginal samples alone, as they would urine samples, following a doctor's order, HealthDay reports.

The American Cancer Society recommends women be screened for HPV every five years from the ages of 25 to 65. But more than 50% of the 11,500 US women diagnosed with cervical cancer each year have been rarely if ever screened, per HealthDay. People living in underserved communities may find it hard to reach a doctor. Others may feel uncomfortable with pelvic exams. "Self-collection can expand access to screening and reduces barriers, which will give more people the opportunity to detect, treat and ultimately survive cancer," says Dr. Karen Knudsen, head of the ACS. "We anticipate self-collection will play an increasingly prominent role in cervical cancer screening once regulatory and clinical prerequisites are in place and as supporting evidence continues to accumulate," adds ACS chief scientific officer Dr. William Dahut.

The testing kits—covered by private insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid—will be offered as part of a National Cancer Institute study on self-collection in the US. "The method has already proved successful in European countries and Australia," per the Post. A US study also found self-collection to be accurate. But federal researchers want to learn more about how self-collection affects cervical cancer cases. As for at-home tests, they could be soon to follow. Teal Health just received FDA breakthrough designation for an HPV self-screening device called the Teal Wand, which collects a sample that can be sent to a testing lab. The designation speeds up development and review of the product. According to the Post, the FDA could approve it within months. (There's also an effective HPV vaccine.)

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