Testing for HPV
Testing for human papillomavirus (HPV) may be a useful first step for cervical cancer screening in women younger than 35 years, preliminary findings indicate.
Testing for HPV is better than standard cell testing at picking up pre-cancerous changes, but it is also more likely to yield false results. This is particularly true among young women, where there is a higher rate of infection, Dr. Guglielmo Ronco explained.
Using the strategy of HPV testing first, followed by cervical cell examination if needed, “we showed that it is possible to have a relevant increase” in pre-cancer detection without increasing the false results, even among young women, said Ronco, from the Centre for Cancer Prevention in Turin, Italy.
In the new study, Ronco and the New Technologies for Cervical Cancer Screening Working Group assigned 5,808 young women to screening with or without HPV testing.
In the group that did receive HPV testing, cell testing was performed and, if pre-cancerous changes were seen, the women underwent colposcopy, an examination of the cervix with a special instrument, was performed. The procedure in the group that received HPV testing was similar, except cell testing was only performed if the HPV test was positive.
As noted, the HPV test/cell test approach was better than the conventional approach at detecting pre-cancerous changes. Moreover, unlike HPV testing alone, the HPV test/cell test approach did not increase the number of false results.
The follow-up of this study and other similar trials should provide information to help guide “the decision to switch to HPV testing as a routine method for cervical screening,” Ronco said.
SOURCE: The Lancet Oncology, July 2006.
NLM, the National Institutes of Health (NIH)