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Screening methods used to test for the human papilloma virus (HPV) could be offered to female patients as an alternative to cervical smear tests as a form of cervical cancer screening.
Researchers form Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry have found that the urine tests used to detect HPV are both accurate and efficient at also detecting signs of cervical cancer. Researchers behind the study have said that offering the urine test as an alternative to a smear test could help revive the numbers of young women being screened for cervical cancer, as it is thought the current invasive methods ‘put young women off’, potentially endangering their lives.
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection, with over 80 per cent of women becoming infected with it at some point during their lives. Usually, the virus is harmless and presents no symptoms, but occasionally it causes mutations in cervical cells which can develop into cancer.
The study, which involved an analysis of 14 separate medical studies involving the participation of 1,433 sexually active women, found that using a urine test to detect the cancer had encouraging results.
Although the urine test is not as accurate at detecting cervical cancer as the traditional smear test, it did detect 87% of positive HPV cases, and 94% of negative cases. Seeing as HPV is seen to detect cervical cancer, these tests could be used to detect even the risk of an individual developing it after they had contracted a cancer-causing strain of HPV.
Although results varied, scientists did confirm that they were confident that urine testing “should be considered as an accurate and acceptable alternative that could increase screening coverage.”
More comprehensive tests on the accuracy and efficiency of the urine test will have to be carried out before it becomes a mainstream cervical cancer screening method, but this new research could be the beginning of a breakthrough in cervical cancer survival rates. With people more likely to use this less invasive, less time-consuming method, diagnosis rates are likely to soar, and as treatment is likely to be administered much sooner than usual, survival rates should also see a significant rise.