Study: HPV tests more effective at finding precancerous cells in women than a pap smear

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There’s currently an ongoing scandal regarding pap smears in Ireland (CervicalCheck Scandal), with more than 160 women given a false all-clear, 13 of whom have since died.

So a better, less invasive test for cervical cancer is great news!


Both tests analyze cervical scrapings…the woman goes trough the same procedure. It’s the testing method that’s different. The Pap test is done with a microscope to identify abnormal cells. Other, newer methods are molecular biology based. They are already used to confirm HPV if there are abnormal cells seen on the Pap smears.
It would be nice if insurance covered the molecular method as a first-line test here in the States.


I’m pretty sure a pap smear tests for more than precancerous cervical cancer so we’d still have to get them. From personal experience it doesn’t really hurt it’s just uncomfortable.

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Second that.

It’s awkward and not fun but I’ll take a pap smear to a cavity fill or injection any day. (And speaking as someone who will never need my prostate poked, I suspect it is roughly comparable to that procedure. Actually probably less awkward.)


Or we could just vaccinate everyone for HPV, but then if they weren’t afraid of dying of cancer girls might turn into slutty slut sluts, and then the highly paid Op-ed columnists for the NYT would have a sad.


Dude, a pap smear is not such a big deal. A mammogram is waaaay worse: they sandwich your breast between two steel plates & squish it flat, then tell you not to breathe while they take the pic. And I suspect your dread of the prostate check is more uncomfortable than the check itself. What I’m not looking forward to is that first colonoscopy. Although I have a pal who talked the doctor into turning the screen so they could see inside themselves.
Interesting info about the HPV test, though. Thanks.


Agree about the pap smear - it really isn’t that big of a deal. I also don’t have a problem with mammograms. My theory is that if you’ve got big titties (I do), they’re not such a big deal. The plates where I get my mammo are acrylic - not metal - and that might have something to do with it, too.

I had my first colonoscopy 8 years ago. You have “a pal who talked the doctor into turning the screen?!??!?!” This person was AWAKE for a COLONOSCOPY?!??!?!?! YIKES! I’ll take the knock-out and worry about the pics afterwards!


My Dad worked as a lab technician in a hospital for decades, and the quality of the work done in labs has gone down significantly. It’s become a lower paying job that requires less education as the machines are more automated than they were 40 years ago. The work load is also much higher as the labs have not grown in side proportional to the rest of the hospital business. Old-timers like my Dad have retired, and the new generation are often lacking in the skills necessary to work at the microscope.

I guess this is what happens when you operate healthcare as a business rather than as a community duty. The costs of treating late stage cancer is not passed on to hospital business, so the invisible hand of the free market is giving us the middle finger.


Me neither. They’ve recently moved the goalposts, which means I’m already in the end zone (pun intended):

Among the major guideline changes, the new recommendations say screening should begin at age 45 for people at average risk. Previously, the guideline recommended screening begin at age 50 for people at average risk.

I’m told that the procedure itself isn’t bad; one person who knows from experience says the worst part’s spending the night before on the commode. Another said that wasn’t so bad, or not as bad as having no food (only juice) the day before.


Yes, the prep is the worst part, if you do it under anesthesia. Even worse, though, is not catching cancer in time.


My wife is an OB/GYN at a major public hospital in the USA. I mentioned this to her and she said that HPV screaning is already done at the same time as a Pap smear and that it’s standard practice at her institution and others.

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As a women I’ve been subjected to far worse for the sake of the woman bits than a cervical smear (of which I’ve had several). Getting cut open twice to get babies out for a start. Give me a smear any day.


Does that include grape juice and barley juice? That’s just another Wednesday.

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I was reading something the other day (citation needed, I think it was in New Scientist) that suggested that as HPV vaccines gain traction, HPV-related cervical cancers will fall to a much lower level. This is great, but there will still be cervical cancers that aren’t caused by HPV and these won’t be detectable by HPV tests.

Also the vaccine is against the most frequent two HPV strains and only somewhat effective against the other 13 (?) strains.
Good old Pap smear is not dead yet. :slight_smile:

Hehe…big titties…the nurses at our screening center are really funny…one nurse told me I’m lucky I have nice fatty boobs. Apparently it’s an advantage when they want to see what’s inside.

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I’m sorry your Dad got disillusioned about hospital lab work. He is right, everything changed in the past 20 years. Unskilled techs indeed make very little money. However, once they get their Lab Tech certification they can start getting better pay. There are also continuing education classes they have to take. The lab personnel structure is also different from what is was in the old times. Then everything was done manually and everyone had to know how to do it. Now only a few people in the lab have to have advance knowledge to troubleshoot the machines or the procedures.

Yeah, when my Dad worked in a lab he had a B.Sc, not a “certification” program. Most of his coworkers had Bachelors or Masters degrees, and specialized in human microbiology. By the mid-1990s he routinely was the person reporting when the machines were not working correctly.

He eventually became a safety inspector for embryology labs and cryogenics. Because a lot of that stuff was too new to automate and younger lab techs were not really experienced at keeping, storing, and reordering reagents. (or maintaining equipment, which is a terribly expensive mistake)

Ahhhh the good old days, when the labor costs were the biggest slice of the operating budget. And it took a small army of people to keep a mid-sized hospital running. Doctors used to order lab work far less frequently because of the time it took and the cost. There is easily a magnitude more work for a lab, and the staff is smaller and less trained than it was in the old days. (by my own experience, the labs are definitely more crowded with equipment)

I mostly agree.

Looks like the bazillion new tests are a double edged sword…some dr orders everything on the menu just be sure they dont misdiagnose.

Re: instrumentation: I trust machines more than people. Machines are never tired/frustrated/disgruntled=error prone.