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FDA gives green light for first self-test for cervical cancer

FDA gives emergency approval for at-home nasal swab coronavirus test
Posted at 3:57 PM, May 16, 2024

(WXYZ) — In today’s Health News, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has cleared the way for women to conduct self-testing for cervical cancer. It’s a major development that could increase early detection in those at risk for this type of cancer.

The goal of the self-test is to reach more women, especially those who dread going to their gynecologist for a pelvic exam. It expands the screening options, and some health experts even say it could eventually help eliminate cervical cancer in the United States.

So, here’s how the self-test works. Patients swab themselves in privacy at the doctor’s office, clinic, or pharmacy to test for HPV. That’s the sexually transmitted virus known to cause more than 95 percent of cervical cancers. Then the sample is sent off to the lab for analysis. The clinician will then follow up with the results and next steps.

The upside for women is that they don’t have to undergo the invasive, and often uncomfortable pelvic exam that can be very stressful and painful for some. Now, women should still make their yearly OB-GYN appointments, but self-screening eliminates the need for the doctor to perform a pelvic exam during that visit if it’s not medically necessary.

The new self-tests should be available this summer.

The World Health Organization says cervical cancer is the fourth most common form of cancer among women globally. Here in the United States, an estimated 13,000 cases are diagnosed each year. And, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says in most of these cases, the women hadn’t been screened over the previous five years.

It’s important to remember that cervical cancer can be prevented and cured if caught early enough. The hope is that this new self-test will increase the screening options and catch the disease before it occurs or in its early stages. Unlike other cancers where the goal is early detection and treatment, the goal with cervical cancer is to find pre-cancerous cells, treat them, and prevent the patient from having cancer.

For now, the makers of the self-test say the first versions will likely be for use in a clinic setting only. However, they eventually plan to offer an at-home option.

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