Study Finds HPV Test Viable Alternative to Pap Smear

HPV test will provide accurate results of cervical cancer than Pap smear. Cervical cancer is one of the simplest gynecologic tumors to control, for which two screening tests can help diagnose the disease at its very earlier stage. one is the standard Pap smear, while another is testing for human papillomavirus infection, or HPV.

In a emailed statement to CBC News, Dr. Jennifer Blake, chief executive of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada, said: "Our HPV guideline is still in development, however we are supportive of HPV ... testing becoming integrated into provincial cervical cancer screening programs".

This study suggests that the HPV test alone may be more effective than the Pap smear alone at predicting the development of cervical cancer.

The new screening method led to "significantly higher" rates of precancerous cells being picked up in women, allowing faster treatment to stop cancer developing, according to a study of more than 19,000 women.

Now that we have the results of such a large study, scientists are better able to understand the long-term accuracy of HPV test results. More than 4,000 women die from it, even with screening and treatment.

Of note, the Canadian Task Force on Preventative Health Care differs from the USA task force - it recommends Pap smear screening every three years between ages 30 and 69, citing weak evidence for screening women ages 25 to 29. Women who qualified were age 25 to 65 years, had a Pap test in the past year with no family history of CIN2+ in the past five years.

The study included patients from 2008 to 2012, and nearly half of them were tested using the HPV test. "This has been building for decades", he said, adding that the Pap smear is "crude and inaccurate" while the HPV test is much more precise, operates on the molecular level and can provide information on the specific type of HPV causing the problem. Harper notes that using both Pap smears and HPV testing can mean up to 30 percent of women could have a false positive. The research compared the results from both tests and it might be that the HPV test is more accurate than the other.

But in recent years, most medical groups have been recommending women get both tests, and some experts are pointing out that such so-called "co-testing" may be better than the HPV test alone at detecting precancerous changes; the study did find that in a small number of cases, Pap cytology identified precancerous lesions that HPV testing did not.

Schmeler often works in Latin America where, in countries like El Salvador, cervical cancer is one of the most common cancers in women primarily due to poor screening programs.

Testing for HPV is a less intrusive method for cancer screening.

Dr. Carol Mangione, a USPSTF task force member and UCLA professor of medicine says the method of testing comes second to being sure that all women, especially high-prevalence groups like black and Hispanic women, are able to get the testing they need.

HPV testing also can be done on samples of vaginal and cervical secretions that clinicians or women themselves gather with a swab - a less invasive process than the Pap. In both the groups, the final co-testing discovered more abnormal cells within some of the women who initially tested negative. This new study could prove important in deciding practice guidelines.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a DNA virus from the papillomavirus family.

Might women over 30 soon be saying goodbye to the Pap smear? "In fact, at the conclusion of the study, all HPV-negative women were tested with the Pap smear, which led to finding additional cases of pre-cancerous lesions". Partly because of that, he said, "we're a long way away from replacing the Pap smear".

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)

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