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Panel Recommends HPV Test as Replacement for Pap

Experts voted 13-0 that Roche's test was safe and effective as first step in cervical cancer screening
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Currently, the cobas HPV test is approved for use among women aged 21 and older who have already received an abnormal Pap test. It is also approved as an add-on to a standard Pap test in women aged 30 to 65. According to Roche, the cobas HPV test is able to screen for a variety of high-risk strains of HPV.

Dr. Andrew Menzin, a gynecologic oncologist at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y., said that "HPV testing has been a remarkable advance in cervical cancer screening."

Its greatest value is helping to decide whether a follow-up colposcopy is needed, he said. "The idea of reversing the order of testing is an approach to try to refine and minimize who [unnecessarily] goes on to colposcopy," he said.

Whether doctors will accept using an HPV test first instead of a Pap test will depend upon the clinical trial data supporting it and on doctors and patients being educated about it, Menzin believes.

He noted that current guidelines still favor using the Pap test first, "but the guidelines continue to evolve."

Although screening for cervical cancer is vital, it is not the only reason women should have a gynecological exam, Menzin added.

"Women should follow the current guidelines and have routine gynecological examinations," he said. "Gynecological care is more than cervical cancer screening."

There are two approved vaccines, Gardasil and Cervarix, that can protect against HPV. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all young girls and boys be vaccinated beginning at ages 9 to 11.

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