Pap tests, also known as “Pap smears”, have been one of the mainstays of women’s health for many decades. However, with the approval of a new test, that may be changing soon. Recently, the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a genetic test from Roche: the Cobas HPV test. This new test was approved by the FDA for use as a first choice screening option for cervical cancer.
Roche’s Cobas HPV test can be used to detect fourteen high risk forms of HPV that can lead to cervical cancer and can be used in women aged twenty-five and older. This decision means that Roche can now market its test as a first choice option for cervical cancer screening, ahead of the Pap test.
This decision was not popular among some public health advocates. This is due to a fear that approving the DNA test as an alternative to Pap testing could lead to over- treatment, confusion and higher costs. So far, more than a dozen patient groups have voiced their concerns in letters to the FDA. In their letters, they shared their concern that HPV-only testing could lead to over-treatment of younger women. This is because most young women who are sexually active contract HPV but their bodies are able to eliminate the virus within a few months. This means that they are at little risk for contracting cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer develops from years-long infection with the HPV virus. Despite the recent controversy, one fact remains constant: if you are a woman, it is important to get some type of testing to detect cervical cancer on a regular basis. Your OBGYN can determine the best means of testing to meet your needs and the frequency that is needed to ensure your long-term health. If you have more questions about this new test or about your risks for developing cervical cancer, talk to your OBGYN today.