The saying two heads are better than one may also apply to cervical cancer testing, after a study determined that while Pap smears will be able to detect the disease, a combination of a Pap test and a test to detect the human papillomavirus (HPV) is able to provide a more accurate diagnosis.
The results of the study was published online in The Lancet Oncology.
Study author Philip Castle, a researcher at the American Society for Clinical Pathology Institute in Washington, D.C., shared further that for women who were found to be positive for HPV, there was no need for a Pap test: “We could have used the HPV alone and gotten the same results.”
The study, which was funded by HPV test manufacturer Roche Molecular Systems, looked into a DNA-based HPV test manufactured by Roche. It consisted of evaluating the test results for almost 41,000 women, aged 25 and older, who were enrolled in 61 studies in 23 states. The researchers took two samples for each participant, for Pap tests and HPV tests. Women whose Pap tests revealed abnormal cells, or who may have normal Pap results but were positive for HPV, were referred for a colposcopy.
Ten percent of the study participants tested positive for HPV, while 6 percent had abnormal Paps. Of this number, 705 were found to have pre-cancerous lesions.
Among the participants who underwent colposcopy, it was determined that the HPV is able to detect higher-grade lesions better, over Pap tests. Dr. Elizabeth Poyner, a gynecologic oncologist and pelvic surgeon at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, gave the following statement: “This study has demonstrated that it may be possible to replace the Pap smear with a more effective screening strategy employing the use of high risk HPV testing alone.”