Study finds that self-sampling can be an effective HPV screening strategy in developing countries

July 7, 2014

Health screens for cancer-causing infections such as HPV can be challenging in developing countries, where people from rural areas can have limited access to health services. New research from the University of Alabama at Birmingham examines the prevalence of high-risk HPV in Nepal, a country with one of the highest cervical cancer rates in South Asia, and finds that self-screening for HPV can be effective. The study, published in PLOS ONE, investigated HPV prevalence and screening methods in the remote district of Accham in far western Nepal.

Within a one-day health camp conducted at the Nepal Fertility Care Center, a team led by lead author Sadeep Shrestha, PhD, gathered clinician-collected specimens as well as self-collected cervical specimens. This was done to determine whether self-collected HPV samples were comparable to clinician-collected specimens as a form of screening among women with little or no formal education.

“We learned that, even in a remote area, among illiterate women, self-collected sampling for HPV and cervical cancer screening is feasible,” Shrestha says. The study determined the prevalence of high-risk, meaning cancer-causing, HPV was 9.6% among the women who attended the camp. “Most of these participants had never visited a medical center, and thus an efficient sampling scheme will be needed for HPV/cervical cancer screening purposes,” Shrestha adds.

“We realized that many other women could not attend the health camp due to distance to the camp, potential health issues, or even because of cultural taboo,” Shrestha says. “The model of putting screening projects into existing health camps, coupled with a self-sampling approach to HPV, would be beneficial for the Nepalese government with its comprehensive screening plans.” Read the article.

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