Cervical screening

A new test designed to detect Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) could become a more effective early warning system for preventing cervical cancer than the traditional smear, say researchers.

A report in The Lancet says the HPV test detected 97 per cent of significant cervical abnormalities compared to only 76 per cent for the smear.

The results of the study involving 11,000 British women aged 30-60 suggest that this test has the potential to become the main screening tool for preventing cervical cancer.

The authors say that HPV testing could be the primary screening test and smears would be done (using the remainder sample) only in women tested positive for the virus. If that smear was negative the study showed that it was safe to monitor these women by re-testing a year later to see if the infection had disappeared.

The Lancet: 2003. 362;1871-76.