UK-based doctors develop simple kit to test cervical cancer; ailment claims almost 270,000 lives every year

Checking for cervical cancer may soon become as easy as collecting a vaginal swab at home, in the privacy of your bathroom, Public Health England has already started a small-scale preliminary study for a home smear test

Myupchar November 07, 2019 17:22:41 IST
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UK-based doctors develop simple kit to test cervical cancer; ailment claims almost 270,000 lives every year
  • Cervical cancer claims almost 270,000 lives every year, 90 percent of whom were from the developing or underdeveloped countries

  • Recent research has come up with promising evidence that the human papillomavirus (HPV) can be detected from urine samples

  • Public Health England has already started a small-scale preliminary study for a home smear test

Checking for cervical cancer may soon become as easy as collecting a vaginal swab at home, in the privacy of your bathroom. United Kingdom-based doctors have developed a simple kit to test for this deadly cancer that claims almost 270,000 lives every year, 90 percent of whom were from the developing or underdeveloped countries. In fact, it claimed 60,070 lives in India in 2018.

UKbased doctors develop simple kit to test cervical cancer ailment claims almost 270000 lives every year

Representational image. AFP

The vast difference in cervical cancer mortality in developed and developing or underdeveloped countries is because of a lack of awareness about cancer and cancer treatments. Of course, the high cost and the unavailability of resources make smear screenings an ineffective health strategy in large parts of the country.

However, educated women and women from developed countries, too, hesitate to get the pap smear or cervical screenings, as some of them find the clinical collection of swab samples embarrassing or think that the test might hurt them somehow.

Recent research has come up with promising evidence that the human papillomavirus (HPV) can be detected from urine samples. That means that there is a possibility that the smear test could now be conducted at home. In fact, Public Health England (PHE) has already started a small-scale preliminary study for a home smear test.

The present situation

At present, the swab samples are collected by doctors or medical practitioners in clinics and hospitals. They screen the samples for any abnormal cell growth or development. The samples are normally sent for further investigation for types of HPV that can cause cervical cancer.

Through the self-collected swab samples, it will become possible to detect the HPV first. However, these samples would not have the capability to test beyond telling people if they are HPV-positive or negative.

The research

The test, called S5, detects the possibility of cancer cells by checking for a rise in DNA methylation as a result of HPV infection. DNA methylation is a normal process by which the body expresses or represses certain genes. Previous studies have shown that increased methylation in DNA at particular places indicates the risk of cervical cancer.

The research team tested S5 on 620 women who had already tested positive for HPV infection, or abnormal cell growth, through colposcopy (a cervix examination using specialised equipment). All of them provided their self-collected swab samples, while over 500 of them also gave their urine samples. The research team extracted the DNA from the samples to see the rise in methylation score.

After comparing the results, the research team found that the S5 test accurately detected the abnormal cell development in 73 percent of cases. The study was presented at the National Cancer Research Institute conference in Glasgow, from 3 to 5 November.

If the S5 test can work at scale, it could be pathbreaking for screening and treating cervical cancer, especially in developing and underdeveloped countries where screening is inaccessible in some areas.

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health. For more information, please read our article on Cervical Cancer: Diagnosis and Treatment.

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