More than 12,000 U.S. women were diagnosed with cervical cancer and roughly 4,000 died from the disease in 2011, according to Inquisitr.com.
When it comes to detecting cervical cancer, the Pap test has been the gold standard for decades. But as human papillomavirus virus (HPV) continues to emerge as a leading contributor to cervical cancer, HPV screening is rivaling the Pap.
Both the Society of Gynecologic Oncology and the American Society for Coloposcopy and Cervical Pathology recently suggested that the HPV test performs better than the Pap at detecting cancer, Indianapolis Star (IndyStar) reported.
They proposed replacing the Pap smear with the HPV test as the first screen for most women.
With a Pap smear, cells are scraped from the surface of the cervix. Doctors look for abnormal cells that could turn in to cervical cancer.
The HPV test detects the presence of two strains of HPV, which are responsible for about 70 percent of cervical cancer cases.
"Pap smears are notoriously unreliable when it comes to detecting cancer. As many as one in 10 abnormal tests are read as normal," Dr. Kelly Kasper, associate clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Indiana University School of Medicine told IndyStar.
A recent study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, said that women with a negative HPV test had half the risk of developing cancer over three years as women who had a negative Pap test. Their rates were similar to those of women who were negative on both tests.
Since most cervical cancer cases are caused by an HPV infection, women who show no signs of HPV are at a very low risk of developing the cancer — even lower than women who have a negative Pap test.
"The thing that is unique about the test; it's either positive or negative," Dr. Warner Huh, a professor of gynecologic oncology at the University of Alabama, who proposed that HPV testing be considered as a solo alternative to Pap testing told IndyStar.
"When that test is negative, there is an extraordinarily high chance she will not get cancer within three years. You can't make the same claim with Pap testing."