Gov't Spends $214K on 'Home-Based' Tampon Testing for Cervical Cancer

April 8, 2013 - 11:39 AM

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( – The federal government is spending over $200,000 for what it calls a “novel approach” to detecting cervical cancer, in which tampons -- used to obtain tissue samples -- are mailed in for testing.

Louisiana State University received $214,672 from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Cancer Institute to study the effectiveness of using tampons to test for human papillomavirus (HPV).

“Medically underserved women are generally at higher risk for many health problems including cervical cancer,” the grant’s description reads.  “Solutions can often be found by utilizing resources within the community.  An academic-community partnership has been formed to develop a novel approach to screening for cervical cancer.”

The grant explains that HPV can be detected from samples obtained from self-swabbing of the vagina, urine testing, or the insertion of tampons.

“These methods could be performed in the community or at home by women,” it says, “which is useful for the group of women not visiting the gynecologist to receive recommended testing.”

The study will compare traditional methods of Papanicolaou (Pap) testing for HPV, with the “novel approach” using tampons.

“Given the ease of home use, it is hypothesized that home-based Tampon testing for HPV DNA will be equal or superior to the annual Pap testing,” the grant says.

The researchers also want to see if a “high risk population” will be accepting of tampon testing and if they are able to “correctly follow instructions.”

“In order to achieve these aims, a group of women will be asked to administer the Tampon sampling at home and return via mail.”

Inquiries to LSU for comment on this topic from were not answered before this story was posted.

The grant, entitled, “Feasibility of Community Based Tampon Self-Sampling to Prevent Cervical Cancer,” was given to the LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans.  In 2012 LSU received $200,000 from the head office of the NIH, the Office of the Director, and $14,672 from the National Cancer Institute.

The project began in September 2012, and lists an end date of August 2014.

The grant says the study has “public health relevance” because not enough women go to the gynecologist regularly.

“Because cervical cancer can be prevented through regular Papanicolaou (Pap) testing and follow-up with treatment of abnormal findings, the rates of cervical cancer have been dramatically reduced in the past decades,” it says.  “Yet many women, particularly older women who no longer use gynecological services, do not receive the recommended testing which results in what would have been preventable cases of cervical cancer.”

“Self-administered, home-based sampling for HPV testing is an opportunity to reach those women who are not visiting the gynecologist for cervical cancer screening.”

Inquiries to NIH for comment on this particular grant  from were not returned by publication of this story.

The NIH did e-mail a standard response about their work, stating, "NIH research addresses the full spectrum of human health across all populations of Americans. Research into unhealthy human behaviors that are estimated to be the proximal cause of more than half of the disease burden in the U.S. will continue to be an important area of research supported by NIH.  Only by developing effective prevention and treatment strategies for health-injuring behaviors such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, drug abuse, inactivity and poor diet, can we reduce the disease burden in the U.S. and thus, enhance health and lengthen life, which is the mission of the NIH.  The details of the specific grant that you are inquiring about, including funding amounts and project start and end dates, can be found on NIH Reporter."