Smart Tampons Are Here—And They'll Help Detect Cancer and STIs

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The next generation of tampons might tampons. No, really. Ridhi Tariyal and Stephen Gire, the founders of the startup NextGen Jane, are developing a new type of tampon that screens for STIs, cancers, and a number of other medical conditions. The tampons would provide a wealth of medical information every month based on blood and cells collected, so much so that it might be equivalent to getting blood drawn at a doctor's office.

"Women should have access to their health data to make smart life decisions," Tariyal said in an interview withIllumina."Most women don't have access to such resources. This helped shape the central premise of our philosophy."

Smart tampons could provide fertility information and help diagnose medical conditions that are often asymptomistc, such as cervical cancer and endometriosis, a disorder in which tissue from inside your uterus grows outside of it. 

In fact, cervical cancer and endometriosis are major focus points for Tariyal and Gire because both conditions often go undiagnosed until late stages, and early diagnosis is essential for proper treatment. As The New York Times reports, the typical way to diagnose endometriosis is to undergo a laparoscopic surgery that many women put off for years. A tampon test solution, one that is minimally invasive and can be performed at home, would be revolutionary. 

"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 told Fast Company. "We had to come up with something that would allow women to find out about these conditions sooner than every year." 

NextGen Jane is currently in the clinical trial stage. Tariyal and Gire hope to have a prototype in the next year or so.

Dr. Dawn Harbatkin, the executive and medical director of Lyon-Martin Health Services, a medical clinic that specializes in care for women, lesbians and transgendered people in San Francisco, believes that patient education is an essential part of a smart tampon product. 

"It's a really empowering way for people to feel in control and do self-collecting at home," Harbatkin told Bitch Media. "But there needs to be an educational program that goes with it." 

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Maggie Maloney

Maggie Maloney is the associate editor at Town & Country and ELLE Decor, where she covers style, beauty, jewelry, and the many members of the royal family. She also manages social media and content strategy for both brands.