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HPV test better at detecting cancer than a Pap smear

05 July 2018

Out of the subjects who examined negative in the HPV test, just twenty-two had abnormal cells, whereas out of those who tested negative in the Pap smear, fifty-two women had abnormal cells. 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.

According to American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) women aged 21 to 29 years should have a Pap test every three years while women aged between 30 to 65 years should have a Pap test along with a HPV test every five years or a Pap test every three years.

The research came from doctors and scientists working on Canada's cervical screening programme, including researchers from the University of British Columbia, British Columbia Centre for Disease Control, Lower Mainland Laboratories, British Columbia Cancer and McGill University.

In the first round of screening at the start of the study, more cases of CIN3+ were found in women who had HPV tests (7 per 1,000 women) than women who had smear tests (4.4 per 1,000 women). At the end of the four-year study, the women were tested with both tests.

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Because the HPV vaccine that is recommended for adolescents is still limited in its use, testing for the presence of the HPV virus, in general, will continue to be a crucial part of cervical cancer prevention. But one issue is that it was centered around one ideal system in British Columbia, where they had one place to send all of the Pap smears and HPV testing.

Limitations to the study include that the women sampled were highly-educated and not geographically diverse.

Pap smears involve scraping cells from the cervix and examining them for cancerous changes, also known as "cytology" testing.

Doctors believe that the HPV test is more accurate, and is a better tool in earlier diagnosis, also increasing the time between screening. For women under 25, the Task Force suggests use of Pap test alone because many of them are infected with HPV. Where it is hard to apply HPV tests over pap smear for U.S. as there hasn't been head to head comparison until now. By adding the Pap test to the HPV group, an additional three lesions were found. Of the women who tested negative on the HPV test only 22 women showed abnormal cells (grade 3 or worse), while from the Pap smear group, 52 women ended up with abnormal cells. "With a negative HPV, we know testing can be done much less frequently", Ogilvie says. These HPV viruses are sexually transmitted and can cause most of the anal cancers; many vulvar, vaginal and penile cancers; and some oropharyngeal cancers as well along with the cervical cancers.

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But, neither testing method was found to be foolproof. Those who tested negative with the HPV test returned four years later. Some women might not even realize that they are being tested for HPV.

"This is one study", he said. He said that although the study confirmed previous research showing that the HPV test is more sensitive than the Pap test, it didn't answer a critical question: Is the HPV test alone better than the HPV test and the Pap smear together, as is current practice? These conditions can be treated before they progress to cervical cancer.

"Primary HPV testing of women detects precancerous lesions earlier, and more accurately than the Pap test", said the authors in a statement.

Moving away from co-testing may not be a good idea, according to Mark Spitzer, an OB-GYN and past president of American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology.

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Most cervical cancers are caused by a particular strains of the Human papillomavirus, or HPV. Increasing awareness among the global population about the benefits associated with these type of tests such as pre cancer detection have also led to the increased number of procedures for testing cervical cancers across the globe.

HPV test better at detecting cancer than a Pap smear