Annual exams are one way for women to make sure everything is functioning as it should in the women’s health department. But if one of the stealthier health conditions crops up between exams, problems could arise.
Soon, however, women may be able to use a "smart tampon" to perform an at-home test for cervical cancer and other asymptomatic issues.
While still in the early testing phases, entrepreneur Ridhi Tariyal and scientist Stephen Gire hope the device will help women take charge of their own reproductive health.
High quality, at-home tests
The early detection and treatment of diseases like endometriosis cervical cancer is crucial; failure to do so could interfere with fertility or even cause death. But tracking vaginal health without the help of a medical professional can be difficult. That’s where smart tampons come in.
"You can pick up a disease any time, and letting it sit there for a year until your next visit can have consequences downstream that you don't want," Tariyal tells Fast Company. "The system has to change."
Tariyal and Gire hope to change the system from reactive to proactive by making early diagnosis a possibility, even if a woman is between annual exams.
Tests blood samples
Seed funding for the duo’s startup, NextGen Jane, has been secured and clinical trials have begun on the smart tampons, which would collect blood samples that could be tested right in a woman’s own home. The devices could even help monitor long-term risks, Fast Company reports.
"Our vision is to manage reproductive health from menarche to menopause," said Tariyal. "We're thinking about all the ways that women could find data about their bodies useful."
In addition to checking for diseases like endometriosis and cervical cancer, smart tampons might also be able to track fertility levels and check for cysts, growths, infections, and STDs.
It could be a while before the technology hits the market, as it will require the development of a variety of tests. But the team hopes to have a working prototype completed in the next year or so, according to NextGen Jane’s website.