Better HPV test preventing cervical cancer than Pap smear

A new study found that the HPV test was better than the Pap smear in detecting precancerous changes that can lead to cervical cancer

A new study found that the HPV test was better than the Pap smear in detecting precancerous changes that can lead to cervical cancer

Schmeler says that in the US, it has been hard to justify replacing the Pap smear with the HPV test because there has not been a head-to-head comparison until now.

The Pap test that has been used for decades as the standard in cervical cancer screening for Canadian women should be replaced by a test that detects high-risk types of human papillomavirus (HPV), a new study says.

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".

Lead researcher Dr. Gina Ogilvie, a professor in the School of Population and Public Health at the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver explained that cervical cancer screening should be performed for all women who belong to the reproductive or childbearing age.

According to The Washington Post, a large clinical "gold standard" trial published on Tuesday revealed that the test for HPV can detect precancerous changes of the cervix earlier and more accurately than the Pap smear. In turn, gynecologists might change which tests they recommend for their patients.

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. They were followed up for four years to check again if they had had a pre-cancerous or cancerous lesion.

Even the most flawless tests can also be limited by the fact that not all women are receiving regular and timely screening. After four years, all the women also got tested with both types of test. A draft recommendation from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force in 2017 recommended cytology testing to screen for cervical cancer every 3 years and HPV testing every 5 years for women ages 30 to 65. Dr Kathleen Schmeler, a gynaecologic oncologist at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center said, "The bottom line is that it could really potentially simplify how we screen women and have it been more effective and not quite as complicated and burdensome - and opens the door for doing just HPV testing which is actually what's now recommended by the World Health Organisation for countries that don't have Pap testing capabilities".

Cervical cancer screening is essential because almost 13,000 women in the USA are diagnosed with cervical cancer annually. "It shows that doing HPV testing alone provides a high degree of accuracy" on who might be at risk for cervical cancer.

False positives in diagnosing diseases are a considerable problem to doctors and patients, as they often result in painful, invasive further testing, unnecessary treatment and fear.

The researchers say the best way to prevent HPV is to receive the vaccine. Where it is hard to apply HPV tests over pap smear for United States as there hasn't been head to head comparison until now. "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". He cites the small group of women who had abnormal cells discovered through a Pap smear at the end of the study period. More than 4,000 women die from it, even with screening and treatment. This new study could prove important in deciding practice guidelines.

The Pap test identifies abnormalities in cervical cells, flagging health-care providers to take a closer look to see if they are precancerous, and then take appropriate action.

"If you tested everyone for HPV in their 20s, they are nearly all going to be positive, but there's going to be all of this intervention that's not needed", she says. Partly because of that, he said, "we're a long way away from replacing the Pap smear".

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