South African Scientists Develop Do-It-Yourself Pap Smear for Women
May 21, 2003
South African scientists have developed a simple do-it-yourself Pap smear kit for women dreading the annual visit to a gynecologist. The home test designed to detect signs of cervical cancer is the brainchild of microbiologists Andreas Karas and Jonathan Keytel. "We chose a Pap smear alternative as many women find the process for collecting the smear embarrassing and so neglect to screen or do not have easy access to screening facilities," Keytel said. "A large proportion of the world's women do not for various reasons have regular Pap smear examinations. Women aren't screening themselves, yet the technology is there," he said.
The home kit, Sen-C-Test, is a combination of two proven methodologies -- a self-sampling collection method and a laboratory test to detect certain strains of high-risk human papillomavirus, the main cause of cervical cancer. The Sen-C-Test kit contains a test tube with a clear solution and can be bought from a pharmacy for R30 (less than US$4). The woman inserts a regular tampon for three to eight hours, a week before the start of her menstruation cycle, and then removes and places the tampon into the test tube. The tube contains a solution that protects and seals the cervical and vaginal cells on the tampon. The tube is returned to the pharmacy from where it is sent to a laboratory to test for signs of HPV, at a cost of about R400 (US$51). The test has a 96 percent accuracy rate. The results are sent to the patient within 10 days by whichever means she has specified on the kit's form -- via fax, email, phone or a doctor's appointment.
Embarrassment and discomfort are not the only reasons for the lack of regular check-ups. "In Muslim countries, men often forbid their wives to go to the gynecologist," Kytel said.
Although the product is only recently available in South Africa, expansion into the international market is in the pipeline.
Agence France Presse
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This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.