Women and their doctors may need to give even more consideration to a test for the human papilloma virus (HPV) because research increasingly shows that it detects precancerous cervical changes sooner and better than the long used and widely accepted Pap smear.
The latest findings on the HPV test’s benefits could lead to improvements in women’s reproductive health, even at a time when experts are seeing sharp declines in American female fertility rates and getting more insights into why US women are having fewer babies. And it may lead more experts to urge women to drop “co-testing,” both the HPV test and the Pap smear.
Researchers in Canada’s British Columbia potentially gave the HPV test one of its more significant boosts with a randomized clinical trial involving more than 19,000 women and following them for four years or so. Their newly published results showed that “there were significantly more cases of precancerous lesions detected early in the trial among the women in the HPV-tested group, compared with the Pap cytology group,” the Washington Post reported. Further, “there were fewer cases of precancer in the HPV test group, compared with the Pap smear group. That’s because cases of worrisome cellular changes already had been detected and dealt with after the women were first screened.”