DIY test could detect cervical cancer - Research

Researchers say a do-it-yourself test could soon help women check their risk of developing cervical cancer at home.

The test would involve a simple urine test. Picture: Supplied
Women could soon be able to check their risk of developing cervical cancer with a simple do-it-yourself kit, UK researchers say.

The DIY urine or swab test could be done at home and then sent off to a doctor, offering women a “game-changing” alternative to the current smear test, Dr Belinda Nedjai from London’s Queen Mary University said.

The breakthrough research was presented at this year’s National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Cancer Conference in Glasgow.

While further trials and research is needed to help verify the results, Dr Manuel Rodriguez-Justo from the NCRI described the study as “promising”.

The study asked more than 600 women to provide scientists with vaginal samples, collected themselves using vaginal swabs, and urine samples for screening.

The samples were then examined using a new ‘S5 test’ developed by Dr Nedjai and her colleagues, which measures chemical changes in the DNA to detect cervical pre-cancer and then produces a risk score.

If the score is above a selected cut-off it indicates an increased risk of a pre-cancer lesion, and the higher the score the higher the risk of cancer, the researchers said.

The study found the test “worked well” on both self-collected urine and vaginal swab samples.

These findings represent an advance in cervical cancer screening, especially for women who do not attend the clinic, such as older women, or women who find the smear test too painful or who do not have access to a screening program in their country. We think it’s promising, Dr Nedjai said.

The test could also offer an alternative for women who have a physical disability or have experienced trauma, experts said.

Around 930 women are expected to be diagnosed with cervical cancer in Australia this year and around 250 will die, according to the Cancer Council.

It is one of the most preventable cancers and has a five-year survival rate of 74 per cent.

In December 2017 the Pap smear, which was used to look for cell changes in the cervix, was replaced with the more effective Cervical Screening Test, which could detect the human papillomavirus virus (HPV) – the biggest risk factor for cervical cancer.

The new test means most women in Australia will only need to be tested every five years, instead of every two, although the procedure used to collect the sample is the same.

A vaccine against specific strains of HPV is also available for teenage boys and girls.

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