Approximately 79 million Americans currently have one of 100 different strains of the human papilloma virus (HPV), making it incredibly common. We also know that 99 percent of cervical cancers are caused by HPV, so despite how common it is, HPV can have some pretty serious consequences. For this reason, researchers have been looking into ways to help predict the risk of cervical cancer in people with HPV — and have recently gotten one step closer.
A report published in The Journal of Molecular Diagnostics discusses a new test which could revolutionize the way we detect cervical cancer. Not only would the test detect the specific type of HPV infection, but it would also indicate whether there were any precancerous markers. This is a big deal because it could improve how HPV is diagnosed, which may help avoid unnecessary diagnostic procedures, as well as provide faster test results at lower cost.
Cervical cancer screening works by identifying precancerous lesions before cancer develops so they can be treated and improve the outcome for the patient. The tests that are currently in use either focus on testing for HPV or detecting abnormal cervical cells — not both, like the new type of screening.
Also, the current molecular diagnostic tests aren’t always great at identifying cancer or precancerous lesions. So even when you combine the results with analysis from a Pap test, it’s not always accurate. This is a problem because it results in a far more unnecessary colposcopies — the invasive test where the doctor visually checks for cervical lesions. According to Dr. Marc Eloit of the Pathogen Discovery Laboratory of the Institut Pasteur in Paris, and lead author of the study, this new test could help eliminate unnecessary colposcopies. In a statement, he said that in the future, this test may also work for other HPV-associated cancers, like anal cancer and head and neck cancer.
Cervical cancer is a serious health concern for women: The American Cancer Society estimates that about 13,240 new cases of invasive cervical cancer will be diagnosed, and about 4,170 people will die from it. In addition to getting your yearly Pap test, you should also be on the lookout for signs of cervical cancer that you might miss.