Cervical Self-Exams Ready for Real World; Aimed at Women in Poor Nations
June 23, 2005
Realizing the difficulties of bringing Pap smears to the developing world, Florida doctor Arthur Fournier started a company to develop a cheap, simple device that allows women to give themselves a cervical exam. Fournier's creation, a plastic, tamponlike device, is set to go into widespread use this fall in South Africa. The device is aimed at women in developing nations who cannot -- for logistical, financial, social or cultural reasons -- get a Pap smear.
Since the Pap smear was adopted 50 years ago in the United States, cervical cancer rates have fallen by 80 percent. However, the preventable disease remains the leading cause of cancer death among women in the developing world. In those areas, lacking appropriate medical infrastructure and constrained by social taboos, women's opportunities to receive Pap smears are rare.
Fournier's device, which costs about 25 cents, is inserted like a tampon, rubbed against the cervix, and removed. The device's removable tip is put into a small container and sent off for testing. In a small trial involving 95 women, the device was about as effective as a Pap smear. Experts call for larger trials and note that the lack of trained technicians in the developing world to test the samples could be a barrier to the device's effectiveness. It has not received FDA approval for use in this country.
Fournier's device could be used to take samples for HPV tests if such tests can be made inexpensive enough for use in the developing world. Other researchers are looking into cheaper ways to remove lesions in women with HPV, hoping to create a complete package, from screening to treatment, for women in poor countries.
06.22.2005; Jacob Goldstein
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.