Posts Tagged ‘ pap smear ’

Pap Test Alternative Gets FDA Approval

Friday, April 25th, 2014

An alternative method to the traditional Pap smear test has received approval from the federal government as an acceptable screening test to detect cervical cancer.  The approval comes amid objections from some women’s health organizations, as The New York Times reports:

The new test, developed by Roche, detects the DNA of the human papilloma virus, which causes almost all cases of cervical cancer, in a sample taken from the cervix. Pap testing involves examining the cervical sample under a microscope to detect abnormalities.

A committee of outside advisers to the F.D.A. unanimously endorsed the Roche test in a meeting last month.

But a coalition of 17 consumer, women’s and health groups opposed the approval, arguing that the new screening method had not been adequately tested and could upend a practice that has successfully prevented cervical cancer for decades.

“This proposed indication for the HPV test would represent an unprecedented and significant shift in clinical practice that would affect millions of women for the majority of their adult lives,” the coalition said in a letter to the F.D.A. earlier this month.

The letter was organized by the Cancer Prevention and Treatment Fund, a research and patient education organization, and signed by the American Public Health Association, Consumers Union, the National Organization for Women and the women’s health education group Our Bodies Ourselves, among others.

A separate letter making similar arguments was sent to the agency earlier this week by a group of doctors and professors.

The F.D.A. said, however, that the evidence was sufficient.

“Roche Diagnostics conducted a well-designed study that provided the F.D.A. with a reasonable assurance of the safety and effectiveness when used as a primary screening tool for cervical cancer,” Alberto Gutierrez, the agency official who oversees diagnostic testing, said in a statement.

Image: Pap smear test, via Shutterstock

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FDA Recommends HPV Test, Not Pap, for Cervical Cancer Screening

Monday, March 17th, 2014

The Pap smear test, which women have had annually for decades as a way of screening for cervical cancer, may soon become passe, as a Food and Drug Administration panel has recommended a different test, also performed by vaginal swab, as the first line of defense against the disease.  The new test looks for the DNA of the human papillomavirus, or HPV, which is the cause of more than 99% of all cervical cancers, while Pap tests look for abnormal squamous cells that could indicate cervical cancer.  More from

Up until now, the Pap was the first test women had to detect the illness, with the HPV test as a second analysis. But if the FDA follows the advisory committee’s recommendations, that would change.

The committee, which voted unanimously to make the switch, would only allow the Roche cobas test to be used alone as the primary evaluation for women 25 years and older. Although there are other HPV tests available, the Roche test detects two strains of the virus that are found in 70% of all cervical cancers.

“Every year, 12,000 women are diagnosed in the U.S. with cervical cancer. This is especially tragic because cervical cancer is a largely preventable disease, and it is well established that HPV is the cause of almost all cervical cancers worldwide. Women need better access to screening tools that include primary HPV screening in order to reduce their risk of developing cervical cancer,” said Dr. Thomas Wright Jr., an expert in gynecology and pathology at Columbia University Medical Center.

“I am pleased that the FDA panel recognized the importance of validated, scientific evidence documenting the use of primary HPV screening to detect women at risk of invasive cervical cancer and allow us to prevent cervical cancer from developing.”

This does not mean the Pap test will go away. It will really be up to the physician and the patient on how best to handle testing. But according to women’s health experts, in most cases, patients who don’t have HPV are less likely to need a Pap, which is why the advisory committee felt it best to recommend the Roche test be administered as the first form of detection.

“I think anytime guidelines are changed, it becomes confusing for both patients and physicians. And we’re going to have to do more research on what’s best,” said Dr. Angela Marshall, director of Comprehensive Women’s Health of Maryland. “But the fact that the FDA is looking to make these changes says we’ve made great strides in detecting and treating cervical cancer.”

Image: Speculum, via Shutterstock

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Pap Smears Every 3-5 Years Recommended for Most Women

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

Most women only need Pap smears, the most common screening test for cervical cancer, every 3 to 5 years, according to a new set of guidelines by the nation’s largest OB-GYN association.  The Associated Press has more:

Many medical groups have long recommended a Pap test every three years for most women. The new advice from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says that’s true for women ages 21 to 29 whose Paps show no sign of trouble.

But for healthy women ages 30 to 65, the preferred check is a Pap plus a test for the cancer-causing HPV virus, the group concluded. If both show everything’s fine, they can wait five years for further screening.

The guidelines from the nation’s largest OB-GYN organization agree with advice issued earlier this year by a government panel, the American Cancer Society and other medical groups — showing growing consensus that it’s safe for the right women to wait longer between Paps.

Cervical cancer grows so slowly that regular Pap smears, which examine cells scraped from the cervix, can find signs early enough to treat before a tumor even forms.

Image: Gynecologist, via Shutterstock

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New Recommendations Call for Less Frequent Pap Smears

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Women between ages 21 and 65 should only receive Pap smear tests, which screen for abnormalities in the cervix, every 3-5 years, rather than every year.  This is the message of two separate sets of recommendations released last week by the US Preventive Services Task Force and the American Cancer Society.

The new recommendation impacts not only women’s health in general, but parents whose daughters have received the HPV vaccine against some types of cervical cancers.  For one thing, the new recommendations suggest that girls begin receiving Pap tests at age 21, rather than age 18 as was previously the norm.  Girls who received the HPV vaccine still need to receive Pap smears every 3-5 years, though.

The Boston Globe’s health blog has more:

While previous versions of the guidelines urged screenings every two or three years in women over 30, enough evidence has accumulated from recent studies to take a strong stance against yearly screenings in younger adults too. “Screening every three years is equally effective at finding cancers as annual screening, but it may be safer since it results in fewer false positive tests and fewer unnecessary treatments that could be harmful,” said Dr. Wanda Nicholson, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill, who served on the committee that wrote the task force’s recommendations.

Women whose Pap smears are abnormal often undergo cervical biopsies, which can involve anxiety and discomfort. Repeated biopsies can weaken the cervix, raising the risk of miscarriages and premature births in women who later become pregnant. Reducing screenings from annually to every three years can cut the rate of biopsies in half, according to the American Cancer Society, without increasing the death rate from cervical cancer, which kills about 12,000 American women each year.

A similar rationale was used to determine that women should avoid screening until age 21. Many young women get HPV infections more frequently than the flu and these infections “tend to be transient and clear on their own without treatment,” said Dr. Sarah Feldman, director of Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s Pap Smear Evaluation Center.

Image: Speculum with Pap smear swab, via Shutterstock.

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Panel Recommends Pap Tests Every 3 Years Rather Than Annually

Friday, October 21st, 2011

The United States Preventative Task Force, a group that’s comprised of government agencies, doctors, and major cancer groups, is recommending that women should receive pap smear tests every three years, rather than annually as has long been common practice.

Pap smear tests are still the best way to detect cervical cancer, a diagnosis some 12,000 American women receive each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  But the task force says annual testing is not necessary, and in fact may be harmful for some women.

“If you test every year you find a lot of benign infections that would go away on their own,” Philip Castle of the American Society for Clinical Pathology told Reuters. “You end up overscreening, overmanaging and overtreating women who are not actually at risk of getting cervical cancer.”

The task force also recommended that women not receive pap smears until they are 21 years old, citing risks including vaginal bleeding, pain, infections,and psychological impacts of facing a possible cancer diagnosis.

This same group recently recommended that healthy men not receive regular prostate exams.

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