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Smear test alternative hope

15th May 2008

Researchers from the Hammersmith Hospital in London have suggested that they have found a better method of screening for cervical cancer.

cervical cancer

The team say that the test for the common sex infection human papillomavirus (HPV) may be better at screening for cervical cancer than smear tests.

In a study of 3,000 women, published in the International Journal of Cancer, the Hammersmith team found that HPV testing was more accurate and also so sensitive that it only needed to be carried out every six years, compared to every three years for smears.

The study, covering 40 GP surgeries, involved carrying out HPV tests and smear tests on women who were aged 35 and over.

It revealed that while the protection offered by a smear test fell away after three years, HPV testing lasted for six.

Professor John Cuzick, who led the research, said: “I think the evidence is almost there to start using HPV testing instead of smears for women, using smear testing when HPV is found.?

However, researchers acknowledged that more work was needed to clarify how effective the test was for younger women and also of the cost effectiveness of the plan. Previous studies have concluded that HPV testing should be used in combination with smear testing – currently carried out in women aged 25-65 - rather than replace it.

About 70% of cervical cancer cases result from the different HPV strains and an HPV vaccination for schoolgirls is due to be rolled out across the UK later this year.

 

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