A recent major epidemiological study led by McGill University researchers reveals that the human papillomavirus (HPV) screening test is far more accurate than the traditional Papanicolaou (Pap) test in detecting cervical cancer. The first round of the Canadian Cervical Cancer Screening Trial, led by Dr. Eduardo Franco, Director of the Division of Cancer Epidemiology at McGill’s Faculty of Medicine, concluded that the HPV test’s ability to accurately detect pre-cancerous lesions without generating false negatives was 94.6%, as opposed to 55.4% for the Pap test. The controlled randomized trial initially involved 10,154 women aged 30-69 years and spanned the years 2002 through 2005. It was the first of its kind conducted in North America for HPV testing as a stand-alone screening test for cervical cancer.
The Pap test, created by Dr. Georgios Papanicolaou during the 1940s, requires that cell samples are gathered from the patient’s cervix and examined under a microscope by technicians. The HPV test, on the other hand, although requiring cervical samples, involves an automated analysis that detects the DNA of HPV strains which are known to cause cervical cancer.
Dr. Marie-Hélène Mayrand, Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal, and colleagues from McGill, Université de Montréal, the Newfoundland and Labrador Public Health Laboratory and McMaster University, published their findings in the October 18, 2007 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.
Even though the results of this study may have some relevance regarding the current debate about HPV vaccinations on young females, the issues should be looked at separately, say the scientists. Vaccination is all about primary prevention (screening), while this study focuses on secondary prevention, the researchers stress. Women who receive the vaccine will still have to be screened because their vaccine only protects them against 70% of cervical cancers.
To view the McGill release with regard to this study, please click here. For more information about the HPV vaccine, cervical cancer and related issues, please see the following blogs previously posted on the D.C. Metro Area Medical Malpractice Law Blog:
· American Cancer Society Releases Guidelines on HPV Vaccine
· HPV Vaccine: Most Primary Care Physicians Intend to Offer HPV Vaccine to Prevent Cervical Cancer
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