Combination Pap test should be used for screening
BY Advocate.com Editors
December 13 2003 1:00 AM ET
Using a combination Pap and human papillomavirus test as the primary screening method for cervical cancer could result in improved detection rates compared with standard Pap tests, according to a study by U.K. researchers in the December 6 edition of The Lancet. Current screening approaches typically first employ a Pap test to detect signs of abnormal cervical cells, then a follow-up HPV test if abnormal cells are detected. HPV, a sexually transmitted virus, has been linked with almost all cervical cancer cases, and a negative HPV test as a follow-up to an abnormal Pap test typically rules out the risk of cancer. But the U.K. researchers, using Digene's combination Pap-HPV test on more than 10,300 women in five cities, found that the combination test was more sensitive than a standard Pap test alone, detecting 97.1% of precancerous cervical tissue, compared with 76.6% with the standard Pap test. "We have known for decades that HPV is the primary cause of cervix cancer," said lead researcher Jack Cuzick. "We now have a test that can very accurately detect its presence. Our findings are so promising that a pilot project should now be set up to see how the new test should be integrated into the existing cervical screening program."