Due to the serious health complications that can arise from HPV, researchers are looking for ways to ensure everybody is tested for the disease.
What some researchers found during their study was that mailing at-home HPV tests to women in rural areas or other difficult regions could help in saving lives.
Co-lead researchers Paul Reiter said the study was created to learn how feasible and accepted a mail-based HPV self-testing program could work for underscreened women. The study was published in the Sexually Transmitted Diseases journal reported 80 percent who were given the kits, used them and sent them back to researchers. This was a higher rate of return than they anticipated, said Reiter.
The women receiving the test knew ahead of time that it would arrive. They agreed to use and return it. It’s not clear if women who didn’t know about it before it was sent would use an at-home HPV testing kit.
The study, according to Reiter, was made up of women who consented to be tested. These women were already enrolled in the study and interested in an HPV self-test. The study consisted of 103 women between 30 and 65 years of age in the Appalachian Ohio area where easy access to medical care wasn’t possible. They were sent an HPV screening kit with the Evalyn Brush device, which collects the cells of the vagina and cervix easily and rapidly.
One in four participants were found to have the cancer-causing HPV, but that doesn’t mean they will develop cancer.
Board-certified reproductive endocrinologist Dr. Timothy Hickman said a minute percentage of women with this type of HPV actually get cancer.
Despite that assurance, Reiter said these tests are still very important. He said the results of the mail-based HPV test is that it’s a possible strategy in reaching out to women who cannot or have never been screened for cervical cancer. He said the feedback is very positive.
Researchers hope to do another bigger study that mirrors how remote HPV testing would do in the real world.
The majority of cervical cancer is due to a constant HPV infection. Most sexually active people have had the virus at some point. While most resolve without any health issues, there are some cases where it causes cancer of the cervix, vagina, anus, penis or throat.
Planned Parenthood suggests not having any sexual contact of any kind to avoid getting HPV. If a person plans on having sex, they can decrease their infection risk by using condoms or other types of protection when having sex or getting the HPV shot.
Doctors advise children should get the HPV vaccine at the recommended ages set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to decrease the HPV infection rate.
The CDC, although recommends children get the HPV vaccine, admits it does cause side effects such as muscle or joint pain, nausea and headaches. But, according to a study published in the Journal and Environmental Health journal suggests there is a link between the decreased fertility and HPV vaccine.
The study looked at information dating from 2007 to 2014 from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey of eight million women in the U.S. from 25 to 29 years of age. Researchers discovered that just 35 percent of the women vaccinated were able to get pregnant compared to 60 percent of the women without the vaccination.
Of the married women, 75 percent of those without the shot were able to get pregnant where half of those women with the vaccination were able to get pregnant.
One suggestion for the problem is that the vaccine is comprised of aluminum, which could be a reason for the decrease in fertility. However, it’s important to remember that many other vaccines have this ingredient and doesn’t cause a decline in fertility.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said millions of people have had the HPV vaccine with no reported adverse reactions or side effects.
Hickman said the observation period happened in a time when many women were putting off having kids in their 20s to focus on other things such as their education and careers. He said the study’s author might have a hidden bias against the vaccine, as she under lawsuit under the vaccine injury compensation relief for her daughter and that lawsuit had been dismissed.
The reality is that HPV can lead to cancer of the vagina, cervix, penis, anus, vulva and throat. Women who live in remote or poor areas tend not to get regular Pap smear or get HPV testing done, which leads to cases of undiagnosed cancer.
Remote HPV testing can help them receive the life-saving care they need if they test positive for the disease. However, the primary ways to avoid catching HPV is to use condoms and get vaccinated for it.
Written by Mark Riegel, MD
Here’s what we've been up to recently.