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Elizabeth Boskey, Ph.D.

Self HPV Testing

By February 3, 2012

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I love self-sampling tests. I used the technique during my thesis research, and I think that allowing women to do their own vaginal and cervical samples removes a big barrier for invasive STD testing and Pap smears by making the experience more private and less embarrassing. However although I was excited to see recent research reports about the sensitivity of self-testing for HPV in the Jan 23 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, I do want to remind people that this is not going to be the solution for everyone.

While non-invasive HPV testing is a great way to identify women who are HPV negative and have an extremely low risk of cervical cancer, the difference between HPV testing and the Pap smear is that a positive HPV test on its own doesn't necessarily mean anything. Women may be HPV infected transiently and never have any cervical changes. Therefore, this type of testing has to be done with caution. Both doctors and women will need to be well educated about what a positive result does and doesn't mean.

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