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  • The FDA has approved two new self-screening tests for HPV.
  • Patients would be able to access the self-screening test at a physician’s office.
  • While these tests can act as a supplement, the pelvic exam may still be necessary in some cases.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved two new self-tests to detect HPV. These new tests would allow people to take their own sample to test for HPV, instead of having a physician perform a pelvic exam to take a sample.

Detecting HPV can help physicians determine if a person is at risk for cervical cancer.

The tests are made by Roche and BD.

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection, with more than 42 million cases in the U.S., according to the CDC.

“The introduction of self-screening tests for cervical cancer is a fascinating development,” said Matthew Casavant, MD, OB/GYN and founder of South Lake Obstetrics & Gynecology. “These tests can potentially increase screening rates by reducing the discomfort and anxiety associated with pelvic exams.”

The HPV test can detect signs of the virus in the cervix. These viruses can be precursors to cervical cancer.

To test for HPV, a physician would traditionally take a swab while doing a pelvic exam of a patient. That swab would then be tested for HPV.

With these new tests, patients themselves can use the swab to take a sample. The sample is taken at the physician’s office, similar to how a urine sample might be taken at a medical office.

However, the FDA may soon allow these tests to be conducted at home, according to the Washington Post.

Dr. June Hou is an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, and also a specialist in treating gynecologic cancers, said that these types of tests may help remove barriers for women to get HPV testing especially if they are approved for at-home use.

“I am excited about these new tests overall,” Hou said. “Cervical cancer is one of the few preventable cancers by ways of vaccination and screening. To receive screening however, women currently will need to carve time out of their day to make an appointment…These new tests will remove some of these barriers that are time consuming,and will broaden access to cervical cancer screening to more women, in a more convenient way.”

However, while these new tests may serve as a supplementary tool, they should not completely replace pelvic exams, Casavant noted. Pelvic exams are crucial for detecting other gynecological issues beyond cervical cancer, such as ovarian cysts, endometriosis, and sexually transmitted infections.

Signs of cervical cancer

Symptoms include:

  • irregular bleeding
  • unusual vaginal discharge
  • pelvic pain
  • pain during intercourse

“These symptoms often appear in advanced stages, which is why regular screening through Pap smears and HPV tests are critical for early detection,” Casavant stated.

When it comes to preventing cervical cancer, there are several approaches that can be effective. Being proactive is essential, say medical experts.

“Preventing cervical cancer primarily involves regular screening, getting the HPV vaccine, and practicing safe sex to reduce HPV transmission,” said Casavant.

“Treating cervical cancer might include surgical interventions, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy, depending on the stage at diagnosis. Staying informed about your health, attending regular check-ups, and discussing any concerns with your doctor are the best proactive measures.”

Hou said that the most effective way to prevent cervical cancer is still getting vaccinated against HPV.

“HPV vaccines are extremely effective at preventing HPV infection, the precursor to the vast majority of cervical cancer,” Hou said. “While vaccination is typically recommended before age 12, it is also recommended for everyone up to age 26 if they were not already vaccinated. Additionally, cervical cancer screening is very effective at diagnosing pre-cancer cells of the cervix. Removing the pre-cancer cells will prevent cancer.”

The CDC notes people aged 27 to 45 may also get the HPV vaccine if they were not adequately vaccinated when they were younger.

The FDA has approved two new tests that allow women to perform a self-test to detect signs of HPV. These new tests may help cut out some uncomfortable pelvic exams at the gynecologist.