By Padmini Parthasarathy
When was the last time you had an appointment with the gynecologist? It sucked, right? The folks at Eve Medical Devices have developed a home HPV test to give you some control over your health. As of 2010, only 64.5 percent of women 30 and older get Pap tests regularly. Or rather 35% miss out.
Back when she was a design student, Eve Medical co-founder and CEO Jessica Ching was sitting around with some friends when someone brought up a pending appointment for a Pap test. Yes, they were in a design studio talking about gynecology.
"The conversation turned quickly to how embarrassing and awkward it was, but we knew that it was so important—even though it was so uncomfortable," says Ching.
She put her design skills to solving the problem and came up with a device that is affordable and easy to use. The new device builds on pre-existing technology to screen for the cancer-causing type of HPV. And then she became an entrepreneur.
Using Eve Medical's device will screen for HPV and the high-risk strains of the virus which cause more than 70 percent of all cervical cancers. A study published in the New England Journal of medicine concluded that an HPV test detects 95 percent of cases in which women had precancerous changes to the cervix. The infamous Papanicolaou (Pap) smear, which requires a lab technician to spot abnormalities in cell samples under a microscope, doesn’t catch 45 percent of cases.
About 60 strains of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) have been linked to cervical cancer, and two specific types are responsible for 70 percent of all cases of HPV. In many cases, HPV goes away by itself and does not cause health problems. Though having HPV doesn’t mean that you have cancer, it is a first step in assessing your risk for cancer. Several influential cancer groups recommend that women over 30 get tested for HPV in addition to an annual Pap tests. Testing for high-risk strains of HPV should be a benchmark step. If the test comes up positive, the next step is the Pap test, which requires a professional to actually screen the cells under a microscope.
Many women don’t have the time or money to get an annual Pap smear. Free clinics are often crowded and underfunded. It makes sense to have a cheaper option—one that you can use in the comfort of your own home at that.
"There's an important distinction: we’re not trying to replace tests for women who go to the doctor, we're trying to serve women who are under-screened and not going to the doctors," says Ching.
Eve Medical is going to put the product on the market in Europe first, and America after. It is also in the process of developing a method to screen for Chlamydia and Gonorrhea.
Image via Eve Medical