Screening with 'Pap HPV' is the preferred method for women aged 30-65 in the fight against cervical cancer
(BPT) - It is not often that new study results come along that help put to rest an issue that impacts millions of women in the U.S. But a new study published by an American Cancer Society journal makes it very clear: Pap HPV together, also known as co-testing, remains the preferred way to detect cervical pre-cancer and cancer in women between 30 and 65.
While human papillomavirus (HPV) tests identify the presence of the virus that causes most cervical cancers - but not the cancer itself - Pap tests identify abnormalities in the cervix, many times caused by HPV infection that could indicate the presence of cancer or pre-cancerous cellular changes. That's an important distinction and one this study, published in the American Cancer Society's journal, Cancer Cytopathology, addresses.
'The science demonstrates that testing with HPV alone could miss many cervical cancers that might otherwise have been detected by the more traditional screening with both Pap and HPV tests simultaneously,' says study co-author, Dr. R. Marshall Austin of Magee-Women's Hospital in Pittsburgh. 'In other words, co-testing with Pap and HPV together is more likely to detect cervical pre-cancer and cancer in women in this age group than screening with HPV alone.'*
In addition to its findings, what is equally important about the study was its unprecedented size and scope.
With data from more than 8.6 million women between the ages of 30 and 65 screened and more than 250,000 biopsy results, the study is believed to be the largest retrospective analysis comparing all three cervical cancer screening strategies: Pap alone, HPV alone and Pap HPV together.
'Our objective was to provide real-world data that would inform the discussion regarding appropriate cervical cancer screening methods to help determine how best to screen for early detection and appropriate treatment of cervical cancer,' reports Dr. Douglas S. Rabin, study co-author and medical director for women's health at Quest Diagnostics, which conducted the study.
Analysis of the results include:
* Of the study's 526 cases of cervical cancer, nearly one out of five were missed by screening with HPV alone
* Pap HPV together identified 70 percent of cancers missed by screening with HPV alone
* Screening with HPV alone missed more confirmed cases of cervical cancer than screening with Pap alone
'Given what we know about the effectiveness of screening with co-testing, supported by the results from this study, missed cancer rates observed with HPV alone are unacceptable,' said Dr. Rabin.
These study results will not only help healthcare providers advise their patients with more confidence than ever, but further reinforce existing medical guidelines that recommend women ages 30-65 be screened with Pap HPV together to provide superior protection against cervical cancer.As one component of this preferred screening method, the Pap test has been a standard screening practice since the 1950s and has helped drive a 70 percent decline in cervical cancer death rates since then. Today, more than half of new cervical cancer cases occur among women who have never or rarely been screened, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dr. Austin said that in light of the current medical community discussion about the use of HPV alone* as the standalone primary cervical cancer screening test, the current study results are even more important.
'Cervical cancer is one of the few great cancer prevention stories,' he says. 'We hope that health care providers take these findings seriously to ensure the best possible outcomes for women.'
To learn more about the study and the importance of screening with Pap HPV together, visit PapPlusHPV.com.
* A positive HPV screening result may lead to further evaluation with cytology and/or colposcopy