“Smart Tampons” Screen For Cancer And STI’s
Feminine hygiene is a topic that is typically shied away from, but has been gaining more attention due to controversial social and legal issues such as the “tampon tax”. It is a little known fact that the feminine hygiene industry brings in over $1.04 billion in sales to the U.S. each year, a unsurprising figure given that the average woman menstruates for 40 years, and will use an average of 240 tampons per year.
One company is hoping to increase the value of this basic necessity by creating tampons that will monitor and improve the health of women everywhere.
“I was looking for ways to understand my fertility, and there just weren’t many resources available, especially outside of the fertility clinic. I was able to find data that was useful in understanding my own fertility by launching a reproductive health clinical trial. While that was an empowering moment, it struck me that most women don’t have access to such resources. This helped shape the central premise of our philosophy – women should have access to their health data to make smart life decisions.”- Ridhi Tariyal, Co-Founder of NextGen Jane
NextGen Jane is a startup company that is designing a tampon that will screen women for certain cancers, sexually transmitted infections, and other conditions related to vaginal health. When you hear “smart tampon”, the first thing that comes to mind is a tampon with some sort of electronic chip embedded within its materials. However, founders Ridhi Tariyal and Stephen Gire immediately concluded that this concept would likely make potential users uncomfortable, and decided that diagnostics would be done by a third party. In doing this, they actually were able to expand upon their initial goal of STI screening and include diagnostics for complicated diseases such as endometriosis and cervical cancer.
Due to menstrual fluids containing a multitude of cells and not only blood, the duo realized that the take home tampons could reveal more than initially thought possible.
“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. We had to come up with something that would allow women to find out about these conditions sooner than every year.”
Ridhi and Gire have focused most of their efforts on screening for endometriosis and cervical cancer. Endometriosis affects an estimated 1 in 10 women between the ages of 15 to 49, and The American Cancer Society expects cervical cancer to be the cause of 4,120 deaths in 2016. Endometriosis is also a contributing factor to infertility, and many times goes undiagnosed due to a laparoscopic surgery being required for official diagnosis.
Ridhi and Gire hope that by providing women with more easily accessible diagnostic tools, the occurrences of these diseases going undetected will decrease, and health outcomes will be improved.