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Smart Solution: careHPV test

December 13, 2015 by Lesley Reed

Allowing women to collect their own samples for the HPV test makes screening for cervical cancer accessible almost anywhere. For women in low-resource settings this prospect is not only a relief; it’s a potential lifesaver.

A woman looks at a test result in a lab.

A health care worker processes the easy-to-use and affordable careHPV™ test for cervical precancer and cancer. Women can collect their own samples for the test, a revolutionary approach that makes screening for cervical cancer accessible almost anywhere.

What is the careHPV Test?

What if women could “sample” themselves for cervical cancer? No Pap smears, pelvic exams, or speculums. Just a swipe with a small and soft brush, and you’re done. Goodbye discomfort and embarrassment.

For women in low-resource settings this prospect is not only a relief; it’s a potential lifesaver. While cervical precancer is highly treatable, few women in developing countries have access to the screening needed to detect it before it becomes full-blown cancer.

An alternative to Pap smears has been available for a number of years. DNA testing for human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes most cervical cancer, requires only a vaginal sample and is actually more sensitive than Pap smears, but it’s been costly.

So PATH partnered with QIAGEN, the manufacturer of a sophisticated, hospital-based test, to create an easier-to-use and less expensive test called careHPV. According to PATH studies done in four countries, the test performs beautifully when women collect their screening samples themselves.

Women talking in an open-air produce market.

Community health care workers in Guatemala bring careHPV swab kits into homes, marketplaces, and factories—wherever they can find women who may need screening for cervical cancer. Photo: PATH/Xiomara Celeste Gonzalez.

What is its impact?

PATH is now partnering with ministries of health to introduce careHPV in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Hundreds of thousands of women in these and other countries will be screened and, if necessary, treated for precancerous lesions, greatly reducing their risk of developing cervical cancer.

Vaginal sampling is only possible with a molecular test like HPV-DNA testing. This exciting strategy could radically transform screening programs in low-resource settings. HPV-DNA testing is one part of our comprehensive approach to cervical cancer. Two decades ago we started working on cervical cancer and now PATH is recognized as a leader in this field.

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