Why Doctors May Soon Tell Women to Stop Testing For Cancer With Pap Smear

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By: Krystle Crossman

If you are over 25 you may not hear you doctor recommend a Pap smear any longer for cervical cancer screening. The Microbiology Devices Panel of the Medical Devices Advisory Committee, part of the FDA, voted unanimously that the cobas HPV test should be done to screen for cervical cancer as opposed to a regular Pap. For now it is only a recommendation but the FDA will be doing more research and looking over the clinical trials to see whether it is necessary to change the federal guidelines or not.

The cobas HPV test using genotyping. What this does is help doctors to identify certain types of HPV that cause cervical cancer. It gives a better picture of how likely the person is to get cancer and they are able to treat it or give preventive measures. They used a study of over 47,000 women to see just how well the test worked in indicating the types of high-risk HPV. They found that one in ten women who tested positively for the high-risk form of HPV with the cobas test had a normal Pap smear result, showing that the Pap smear does not always catch the necessary information. A co-author of the 2011 ATHENA study, Thomas Wright, M.D. said that the Pap smear missed almost half of the women who had cervical cancer. He said that the cobas HPV test found it in almost 90% of the women.

At this point most doctors will recommend a Pap smear along with the HPV test just to be on the safe side, but they don’t always recommend the cobas HPV test. The other four HPV tests can find 100 different strains of the virus.

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