For more than 60 years, the Pap test (Pap smear) has been the go to test for detecting cases of cervical cancer, but that will soon be a thing of the past as the Pap test moves over and takes a back seat to the human papillomavirus (HPV) test. As of Wednesday, it was official; the HPV test was decided to be better than the Pap test for detecting cervical cancer stated the FDA.
In a 13 to 0 vote, a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory committee came to a unanimous decision to make the switch from the Pap test to the HPV test as the first line of detection for cervical cancer. This decision allows the HPV test to stand as the primary cervical cancer detection test used in women 25 years of age and older, but not just any HPV test will do. According to the FDA, they will only allow the cobas viral DNA test, manufactured by Roche Molecular Systems, to stand alone as the primary test.
Proper screening will reduce a woman’s risk of developing cervical cancer, a source said, who was quite pleased with the FDA’s decision to make the much needed switch from the Pap test to the HPV test. However, some fear HPV testing is not the way to go for all women because in most females, the human papillomavirus is only detected once she becomes sexually active. In most cases, the woman’s immune system is able to fight off the infection and no further treatment is needed. But in the meantime, her doctor may choose to send her for additional tests such as a biopsy, which in the end, may have been completely unnecessary.
However, Roche says they have the solution to that problem, their test is designed specifically to detect two types of the human papillomavirus, genotypes 16 and 18, which are two strains of the virus that are found in 70 percent of all cervical cancer cases. By detecting these two genotypes, doctors will be able to act against the risk of invasive cervical cancer, which may allow them to prevent the cancer from ever developing.
Some 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year, which is “especially tragic” a source said, considering the disease is “largely preventable.” Current U.S. guidelines recommend that women between the ages of 30 and 65 should have a Pap test once every three years or an HPV test and a Pap test once every five years and that women between the ages of 21 and 30 should have a Pap test once every three years.
For those who are a bit apprehensive about the change, both the Pap and HPV tests are given in the same manner, a vaginal swab. While the HPV test is now the first line of defense, the Pap test has been around for a very long time and it definitely is not going anywhere. It will still be available as a second line test. Those who test positive for HPV will go on to have a Pap test, and those who test negative for HPV are less likely to need further testing at that time.
For more than 60 years, the Pap test (Pap smear) has been the go to test for detecting cases of cervical cancer, but that will soon be a thing of the past as the Pap test moves over and takes a back seat to the human papillomavirus (HPV) test
By Donna W. Martin