26 November 2007

New test better than pap smear

A new test is expected to significantly reduce the number of women killed by cervical cancer.

A new test is expected to significantly reduce the number of women killed by cervical cancer, Lancet Laboratories said on Sunday.

Testing for the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) - some forms of which could cause cervical cancer - would allow for more accurate and earlier detection, spokesman Jason Penrose said.

''While the traditional pap test can find infections and abnormal cervical cells that can turn into cancer cells, (this) test detects the presence of HPV cells in the cervix. It is also 100 percent sensitive, meaning it will pick up even a tiny amount of the virus, unlike the conventional pap smear, which only has a sensitivity of 54 percent," he said.

Thousands of woman die each year
While cervical cancer was curable, around 3 400 South African women still died from the disease every year, mainly due to late detection.

"The Human Papilloma Virus, which has around 100 types, some of which can cause cell changes leading to cancer, is present in eight out of 10 women."

The HPV test was presently more expensive than the normal pap smear.

"Its 100 percent sensitivity enables women to take the test at considerably longer intervals than one would have to do pap smears."

This was particularly relevant in developing countries where women were realistically only tested once in their lifetime.

Easy detection
The accuracy of the HPV test would enable doctors to determine whether a woman was at risk of developing the disease at a later stage.

Microbiologist Dr Louis Marcus said: "The HPV leading to genital warts is generally not cancer-causing and is one of the most common found in women."

"This is also the reason why we recommend the HPV test only to women over the age of 30 and ideally in conjunction with a normal pap smear. In women under that age the virus is mostly temporary and removed by a healthy immune system," said Marcus. – (Sapa)

Read more:
Test to predict cervical cancer
Cervical cancer update


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