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B.C. launches Canada’s first self-screening test to detect cervical cancer at home

British Columbia has become the first province in Canada to allow self-testing for cervical cancer, which is a significant step in making preventive care more convenient for women. The self-test kits, known as HPV kits, can be ordered online or by phone starting January 29th. The introduction of these kits marks a pivotal shift in women’s health, enabling self-testing and reducing dependence on clinical visits, potentially leading to a gradual obsolescence of traditional pap smears. Pap tests, which involve doctors using a plastic or metal instrument to examine the cervix, will be eliminated over time.

HPV (human papillomavirus) is a sexually transmitted virus that can cause various types of cancer. Compared to cervical cytology, HPV screening demonstrates superior efficacy in the early detection of cervical cancer, owing to its enhanced accuracy. The HPV test is better at identifying people at risk due to its higher sensitivity and negative predictive value.

Fifteen types of high-risk HPV can potentially lead to various cancers if the body doesn’t clear them. Persistent HPV infections are a critical factor in the pathogenesis of cervical cancer, as they can induce significant cellular transformations. There are over 100 types of human papillomavirus (HPV) that both men and women can contract. Although most HPV types cause no symptoms and resolve on their own, some can lead to health issues, including cancers of the cervix, anus, mouth, throat, penis, vagina, vulva and genital warts.

Long-term infection with high-risk HPV is associated with pre-cancerous changes in cervix cells, potentially progressing to cervical cancer if left undetected and untreated. A positive HPV test signals the risk of abnormal cervical cell development, allowing for early detection and preventive treatment. The self-administered test kits, designed for user convenience, can be easily sent back to healthcare providers for analysis. Results are typically returned within four to six weeks, providing both the patient and their healthcare provider with crucial information.

In December 2021, a pilot program introduced cervix self-screening to residents of central Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast, later expanding to include New Westminster, the Tri-Cities and Pemberton. The data revealed a rise in participation from individuals who had never undergone screening or hadn’t been screened in a decade. Since the pilot’s initiation, over 13,000 individuals have taken part. Among them, 767 tested positive for HPV, prompting recommendations for follow-up procedures.

Source: CTV News