Interesting and Latest Research

HPV study could lead to new screening for cervical cancer

Researchers at two Canadian universities found that using HPV testing was more accurate at detecting cervical precancers than the traditional PAP smear. If this finding bears out in further investigations, it could eventually mean HPV screening could be the main diagnostic tool for cervical cancer because nearly all cases of cervical cancer are caused by HPV.
The randomized, controlled study involved 19,009 women (16,374 completed the study) and was conducted by McGill University and the University of British Columbia. About half (8,296) of the women used the HPV test to screen for cervical cancer and the other half (8,078) used the Pap smear.
At 48 months, the investigators found significantly fewer indicators of pre cervical cancer (cervical intraepithelial neoplasia grade 2 or worse) among women who underwent HPV testing versus the Pap smear. Cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (cervical dysplasia) is usually caused by HPV and can progress to cancer if not treated.
According to Rachel L. Winer, PhD, associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Washington who is affiliated with the University’s HPV research group (but who was not part of the study), these results could lead the way for cervical cancer screening to reach women who are underserved or who have not been screened. Currently, nearly one third of women ages 30 to 64 have not been screened or don’t get screened regularly.
One huge advantage of HPV screening for cervical cancer is the possibility women could take a sample at home themselves and then mail the sample to their doctor or a lab for interpretation. This opportunity would open up testing to more women, including those reluctant to go to a clinic or doctor for the test.
The HPV screen is more accurate than the Pap smear because it doesn’t depend on human interpretation of the samples. Instead, all that is necessary is verification of the presence of active HPV.
Dr. Constance Mao, a University of Washington Medicine ob-gyn and an HPV researcher for decades, has done some of her own research. She was involved in a four-year study that followed 1,800 women who took swabs at home for HPV and then mailed them to a physician. More than 50 percent of the women in the study preferred to take their own samples than be screened during a pelvic exam in a clinic.
In the near future, women could have an opportunity to use the HPV screen at home instead of going to a doctor or clinic, and get results that are more accurate and less expensive.
The HPV vaccine was approved originally in 2006 to prevent cervical cancer. When the vaccine was approved, cases of oral HPV-related cancers were rare. But that has changed.

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