Invented in the 40’s, the Pap smear has been the recognised gold standard test for cervical cancer. Although saved many women lives, due to advances in technology, this procedure is now being challenged by a far more sensitive and specific molecular test called the HPV test.
Dr Chris Maske, Head of the Molecular Pathology Laboratory at Lancet Laboratories, has this to say, “With the introduction of HPV DNA testing, there is absolutely no need for any woman in this day and age to develop cervical cancer, let alone die from the disease. It has the highest death rate amongst women in developing countries.”
“Large studies show that HPV testing is a much better test for women who are at risk for cervical cancer,” says Dr Allison Glass, Clinical Virologist at Lancet Laboratories.
HPV, the cause of 99% of cervical cancer cases, is spread through bodily fluids, mucous membranes and infected genital skin. Over 100 strains of HPV exist, of which 14 are considered ‘high risk’ or cancer-causing. HPV 16 and HPV 18 cause seventy five percent of cervical cancers.
The Pap smear is simply not effective enough anymore. Medical experts around the world agree that HPV testing should be done before the Pap smear as it is far more sensitive, specific and sophisticated; rather do the more accurate test first.
A young South African executive who can vouch for this is 35 year old Shireen Omar. “For the past 10 years without fail, I religiously went for my annual Pap smear. This year I just could not find the time. A good friend suggested a home screening HPV test called UDoTest available from a pharmacy or online. Thankfully, I decided to give it a try.”
“I visited their website (www.udotest.com) and followed their instructions; it was all very clear and simple to do. Less than ten days, I received feedback from the UDoTest doctors. My test showed a high risk HPV abnormality.”
“I was terribly worried but UDoTest helped me with counselling and referred me to a specialist. The gynaecologist I was referred to decided to give me a Pap smear. A week later, I received an SMS to say that my Pap smear was negative and to come back to him in 2 years time! The Pap smear hadn’t picked up the HPV but the UDoTest did!”
A confused Shireen returned to the gynaecologist for a second opinion.“Thankfully, he booked me in for a colposcopy as a result of the positive UDoHPVTest.” A colposcopy is an examination of the cervix using a microscope to detect abnormalities in the cells. Abnormal cells were detected and Shireen then had a biopsy which revealed the presence of precancerous cells.
“If I had believed the result of only the Pap smear, I would have been in serious trouble,” says a relieved Shireen.
Will the HPV test become the primary screening option for cervical cancer instead of the Pap smear? “Yes, definitely, ” says Allison Martin, the founder of UDoTest. “Its already happening in some countries. It makes sense to do the more accurate cervical cancer test first.”
”UDoTest is an good option because it allows women to take their own sample wherever and whenever they like. UDoTest offers a convenient service that includes delivery and collection, electronic feedback from doctors and post-testing support if need be.
“The UDoHPVTest is analysed in exactly the same equipment as the one that would be done on a sample collected by a doctor, and it is run at an accredited laboratory, so the results are accurate,” says Dr Glass.
UDoTest has been offering the home HPV test since 2013 and is saving lives on a daily basis.
“Women now no longer have any excuses. With discreet delivery and collection, convenience, testing every 2 to 5 years, and a test that takes 30 seconds to do… what more could we ask for?” says Martin.
“There’s no need for a speculum, examination room and trained personnel when using our UDoHPVTest,” says Martin. “We are testing and educating women across the globe. I share Dr Maske’s statement that no woman should develop cervical cancer in this day and age, let alone die from it.”