Testing for human papillomavirus (HPV) can help identify potential cases of cervical cancer, according to a report to the National Cancer Institute.
Belgian researchers reviewed data from 15 studies and concluded that, compared with a repeat Pap smear, a test for HPV infection enables a more accurate prediction of whether a woman with an equivocal cervical abnormality found on a Pap smear is likely to develop invasive cancer.
The studies were done on women with atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance (ASCUS), one of the most common cervical abnormalities. This new study found that HPV testing accurately identified 84.4 percent of women with ASCUS who had high-grade cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN2) or worse. With CIN2, abnormal cell growth on the surface of the cervix has the potential to become cancerous. HPV testing accurately ruled out CIN2 or worse in 72.9 percent of women with ASCUS, according to the report.
When the Belgian researchers looked only at studies that used a recently developed test for HPV, called the Hybrid Capture II assay, they found that HPV testing was 94.8 percent accurate in identifying women with CIN2 or worse and 67.3 percent accurate in ruling out CIN2 or worse. A repeat Pap smear accurately identified 81.8 percent of women with CIN2 or worse and was 57.6 percent accurate in ruling out CIN2 or worse.
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