The National Cancer Institute is moving ahead with a study of 5,000 women that will investigate whether at-home swab tests could be more effective in preventing and eradicating cervical cancer, reports the Los Angeles Times.
Cervical cancer, which kills over 4,000 Americans annually, is almost always caused by HPV, or human papillomavirus. About half of adolescents are now vaccinated against HPV, which means millions are still susceptible to the virus. Nations that have prioritized vaccinations against HPV typically have lower rates of cervical cancer; Australia is on track to completely eradicate the disease.
While HPV testing is typically done in clinicians' offices, the Food and Drug Administration believes at-home testing could lead to more regular screenings, especially during a pandemic when people are avoiding all non-essential trips to their doctor's office.
Should the study of in-home tests be successful, the FDA will work with makers of the HPV tests to set guidelines and ensure availability. The tests will require using a small brush to swab inside the vagina, including it in a screening kit, and mailing it.
Both HPV and HIV are sexually-transmitted diseases (though HIV can be transmitted in other ways, like needles). "People with HIV are also more likely to have abnormal cells in the anus or vagina, which can develop into certain cancers," reports Medical News Today.
LGBTQ people, like all people, are susceptible to HPV and research shows that lesbians and bisexual women are less likely to have regular screenings for it.