Health Care

Could this virus test replace the Pap smear?

Could this virus test replace the Pap smear?”

Approved by the FDA in 2014, the HPV test is a relatively new alternative to Pap smears. Pap smear tests and HPV tests are designed in such a way that they help in early detection of precancerous and cancerous processes of cervical cancers so as to avoid contracting those cancers.

"Most cases of cervical cancer happen in women who have not been regularly screened, or who have been screened, but don't have access to appropriate treatment", she says. One group got the HPV test to screen for cervical cancer, almost all cases of which are caused by HPV, the most common sexually transmitted infection. That's what some experts believe after a new study found that the HPV test detects precancerous cervical changes earlier and more accurately. While neither method was foolproof, the study found that women who originally had the Pap smear were more than twice as likely to have abnormal cells, the article reported. Rising geriatric population will also add fuel this market, as they will further demand for more cancer assays and tests and hence will contribute towards the growth of this market in future. Two years later, the ones that tested negative after the Pap smear had another test of the same type. From the participants, 9,552 women were screened using HPV test and those who were negative for the test came back after four years for a check if they had a pre-cancerous or cancerous lesion.

According to Dr. Kathleen Schmeler, who is a gynecologic oncologist at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, the findings of this study have great implications on women's health. A new study suggests that Pap smears aren't the best option for identifying HPV in many patients, and recommendations for women ages 30 to 65 may change. "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. Then four years later, both groups were tested using both methods, in order to see the results.

After follow up, researchers determined HPV testing detected significantly more CIN3+ cases in the first round of screening than did the Pap test (P .001).

After four years, the women who got HPV tests were less likely to have serious changes that can lead to cervical cancer, a diagnosis of cervical intraepithelial neoplasia 2 or 3 (CIN2 and CIN3), Ogilvie's team found.

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.

But there have been some barriers to just replacing the older test with an HPV test, said Dr. Stewart Massad of Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis. About 4,200 women will die of the disease.

Almost all cases of cervical cancer are caused by persistent infections of high-risk HPV, which causes changes to cervical cells. "They usually take up to 10 years to progress to cancers, but the point is if you don't find them, and you don't know how long they've been there, there is a chance that they could progress to the invasive form of cervical cancer". She 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.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, women aged 21 to 29 should have a Pap test alone every three years.

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

Because all the women in the study who testing negative for HPV were given Pap smears at the end of the study, the results can't determine how one test alone compares to co-testing.

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