The Pap test has long been the gold standard for cervical cancer screening. It involves checking a sample of cervical cells for abnormalities that could lead to cancer. More recently, the human papillomavirus (HPV) test has become available, which checks the same cells for strains of HPV that may develop into cancer.
A new study sought to determine which test was more effective at detecting and preventing cervical precancers. The results, published in JAMA, could mean major changes for the future of cervical cancer screening.
HPV Test Found More Cases of Cervical Cancers Than Pap Test
For the study, more than 19,000 women were divided into two groups. One received the HPV test and the other the Pap test. Researchers detected significantly more cases of cervical precancers among women in the HPV test group than those who received a Pap.
What’s more, women who received the HPV test at the start of the study were much less likely to develop cervical precancer four years later compared with those who were screened with the Pap test. What this means: HPV testing may detect precancerous cells earlier and more accurately than the Pap test.
Screening Is the Best Prevention
Screening is the most important step you can take to prevent cervical cancer. If you have abnormal cells, your doctor can remove them before they have a chance to develop into cancer.
Talk with your doctor about which cervical cancer screenings you should receive and how often to repeat them. Review the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force’s recommendations at www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/Page/Document/UpdateSummaryFinal/cervical-cancer-screening2.
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