DIY Smear Test Show 'Promising' Results and 'Could Replace the Procedure'
Thu, April 22, 2021

DIY Smear Test Show 'Promising' Results and 'Could Replace the Procedure'

Non-invasive, DIY tests are poised to replace smear tests with more accurate results, according to results of a recent National Health Service in the UK / Photo by: Patchara Kotsri via 123RF

 

Non-invasive, DIY tests are poised to replace smear tests with more accurate results, according to results of a recent National Health Service in the UK.

Women could use the new test to detect risks of developing cancer even without visiting their doctors. All they have to do is collect urine and vaginal samples and the test will then analyze the fluids to identify pre-cancer lesions.

The self-sampling test was proven popular among women who took part in the study, and the researchers believe this would mean improved participation in cervical screening programs if the method is made widely available.


Accurate Detection

The study involved 620 women who were asked to provide urine samples, which the women could check by themselves. They were also asked to undergo smear tests to check for HPV (human papillomavirus).

It was the largest study to test for the S5 methylation classifier, a chemical change to one of the four base letters of human DNA that make up the human genetic code, said Belinda Nedjai, director of the Molecular Epidemiology Lab at Queen Mary University of London.

The urine tests were more likely to detect the presence of the S5 methylation classifier (96 percent of the cases spotted) compared to those who only underwent the HPV test (73 percent), The Telegraph reports.

The study involved 620 women who were asked to provide urine samples, which the women could check by themselves / Photo by: auremar via 123RF

 

The Telegraph is the online arm of British daily broadsheet The Daily Telegraph and proclaims itself to have the “largest circulation in the world.”

Earlier research has shown there was 100 percent accuracy at detecting invasive cervical cancer and 93 percent accuracy at detecting pre-cancer in women who had an HPV test when the method was performed on cervical samples taken by healthcare professionals.

The researchers believe the new method could be used in two ways: one, as a secondary test on HPV-positive women and two, an independent test that can accurately identify 85 percent samples that were pre-cancerous.

Enthusiastic Participation

The researchers note the possibility of the new method offering significant savings to the health service, along with saving women from uncomfortable procedures.

"The initial use of self-sampling is likely to be for women who do not attend clinic after a screening invitation and countries without a cervical cancer screening program," Nedjai said, as per The Independent. "In the longer term, self-sampling could become the standard method for all screening tests."

The Independent is a Russian-owned newspaper established in 1986 as a politically independent national morning paper published in London and now provides the latest breaking news, comment, and features.

Nedjai added that they expect the self-sampling test to “improve acceptance rates for cervical cancer screening,” while improving the performance of screening programs.

Women who took part in the trial were “enthusiastic” about the idea of possibly doing a self-check at their own homes, the director noted, adding that the women prefer that idea than undergoing a smear test.

For Robert Music, chief executive at Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, the results of the study “could be a game-changer.”

“It could mean those requiring treatments are identified faster and reduce the number of women having to go for potentially unnecessary investigations at colposcopy,” he explained.

An Advancement

The researchers are currently working on new markers to further improve the accuracy of the classifier, according to Nedjai.

She added that the findings still demonstrate an improvement in screening for cervical cancer, especially for women who don’t visit their doctors such as older women, those who find a smear test too painful or women who don’t have access to a screening program.

“We think it’s promising,” the researcher noted.

Further improvement of the method will also raise the chances of survival along with early diagnoses and immediate provision of effective treatment, especially in countries where screening programs are not available. These countries are often low- and middle-income economies, wherein about 90 percent of deaths due to cervical cancer occur.

It could also prevent the number of cervical cancer from raising. In 2018, 570,000 new cases were reported to represent 6.6 percent of all female cancers—making cervical cancer the fourth most common cancer among women, the WHO says.

"The high mortality rate from cervical cancer globally could be reduced through a comprehensive approach that includes prevention, early diagnosis, effective screening, and treatment programs," the UN health agency adds.

While the new classifier is still undergoing improvements, women can be on the lookout for symptoms of cervical cancer to assist with early diagnosis. These symptoms include:

• irregular, intermenstrual (between periods) or abnormal vaginal bleeding after sexual intercourse
• back, leg or pelvic pain
• fatigue, weight loss, loss of appetite
• vaginal discomfort or odorous discharge
• a single swollen leg

The WHO says severe symptoms may arise at advanced stages if the disease is not detected at its early phases. It adds that women aged 30 to 49 should undergo screening at least once—be it through HPV testing, cytology, or visual inspection with acetic acid (VIA).

In 2018, 570,000 new cases were reported to represent 6.6 percent of all female cancers—making cervical cancer the fourth most common cancer among women, the WHO says / Photo by: thitarees via 123RF