New Test Detects Cervical Cancer With 100 Percent Success Rate

Abnormal cells from a Pap smear. Komsan Loonprom/Shutterstock

Rachel Baxter 18 Dec 2018, 17:59

A test for cervical cancer has a 100 percent success rate, significantly beating out the tests we currently use like the Pap smear and HPV test.

HPV, aka the human papillomavirus, is responsible for the vast majority of cervical cancer cases worldwide. There are over 100 different types of HPV, a small handful of which are known to cause cancer. It is mainly transmitted through sexual activity.  

The current HPV test detects the presence of the virus rather than actual cancer risk. HPV often doesn't cause any problems, so many women who test positive in an HPV test undergo unnecessary stress. The Pap smear involves taking a sample of cells from the cervix and examining them under a microscope. Neither test is 100 percent effective.

So a team of researchers, led by Queen Mary University of London, developed a new test and conducted a randomized clinical trial of 15,744 women aged 25 to 65 in Canada to see how well it worked. It spotted all eight of the invasive cervical cancers that developed in the women, while the Pap smear only detected a quarter of the cancers, and the HPV test detected half.

Therefore, the new test is a significant step in the right direction when it comes to catching cancer early. The findings are published in the International Journal of Cancer.

“This is an enormous development. We’re not only astounded by how well this test detects cervical cancer, but it is the first time that anyone has proven the key role of epigenetics in the development of a major solid cancer using data from patients in the clinic,” said lead researcher Professor Attila Lorincz in a statement. “Epigenetic changes are what this cervical cancer test picks up and is exactly why it works so well.”

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