There may be new hope in the fight against cervical cancer – a disease that accounts for seventeen percent of all cancer deaths in India – in the form of a urine test.
Researchers from the University of Manchester, based in the UK, have found that a urine test could be as accurate as the Papanicolaou test (also known as the Pap smear or smear test) in detecting the presence of the human papillomavirus (HPV). This could be an important tool in preventing cervical cancer cases, ensuring timely diagnosis and effective treatment even before the onset of the disease itself.
The smear test is important as it can lead to cervical cancer being detected in the precancerous stage, which can be detected in the five to ten years before the onset of cancer itself. Providing accessible alternatives is key to tackling the high burden of cervical cancer in India, which loses 67,500 lives to the disease every year – a rate of one death every eight minutes.
HPV refers to a group of more than 150 viruses, of which two strains are responsible for the overwhelming majority of cervical cancer cases. As India lacks a nationwide HPV immunisation program, despite calls from doctors to do so, ensuring that Indian women have the means to test themselves and find out if they are at high risk of developing cervical cancer is one means of mitigating the disease burden, ensuring treatment, and avoiding preventable deaths.
“We’re really very excited by this study, which we think has the potential to significantly increase participation rates for cervical cancer screening,” said Dr Emma Crosbie, who led the study. Indeed, not only could the test results be a boon for the UK, it very much has the potential to effect improvements in women’s health in India too.