The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) can often present as a precursor to cervical cancer and the authors of a new study have found that testing for the virus can be a more cost effective way to screen for cervical cancer than the traditional screens. The recommended cervical cancer test in the UK, cervical cytology, is a process requiring considerable laboratory resources and may not be a viable option in developing countries.
Rates of cervical cancer in developed countries have declined since widespread screening began, however, diagnoses in developing countries are on the increase. The study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute compared the different screening methods to include self-collected Pap tests. While the researchers found that the self-test was not as specific as other methods and could not be used as a stand-alone test, it may reduce the need for the other, more costly, tests to be used except when necessary.
In the UK, girls aged 12–13 are offered the HPV vaccine to prevent against the types of HPV that lead to cervical cancer; older teenage girls are also being offered the vaccine in a catch-up programme. Women aged 25–64 are offered cervical screening at their GP practice or family planning clinic. For further information on screening for cervical cancer please click here.