New cervical test could predict abnormal cells years before they happen

New cervical test could predict abnormal cells years before they happen


A cervical cancer screening can detect abnormal cells, which is vital as these cells have the potential to progress to cancer.

But new research out today shows there could be a better way to screen women – and predict cell changes years before they happen.

Published in Genome Medicine, it’s claimed there is a more sensitive and predictive method of cervical screening that reliably identifies advanced cell changes and cervical cancer – the main benefit of which, is that people can access treatment sooner.

The new test, in the early stages of development by Prof Martin Widschwendter and his team at University of Innsbruck and UCL, refocuses screening – making it predictive.

It was able to find 55% of women who had a HPV infection, but no visible cell changes under the microscope, and who went on to develop advanced cell changes within the following four years. recently ran an investigation on this very issue, looking into women who could fall victim to delayed cell changes.

This new test uses DNA Methylation of cervical cells, which can indicate if someone is likely to develop cancer later on.

Prof Martin Widschwendter, of the University of Innsbruck and UCL’s Department of Women’s Cancer, says: ‘Vaccination against the virus that causes cervical cancer is now widely implemented and is leading to changes in the amount and types of the virus circulating in the community.

‘In turn, our approaches to cervical screening must adapt so that programmes continue to deliver benefit.

‘Importantly, our other work has shown how testing the same cervical sample can also deliver information on a woman’s risk of three other major cancers: breast, ovarian and womb cancers.

‘Building new, holistic, risk-predictive screening programmes around existing, effective cervical sample collection offers real potential for cancer prevention in the future.’

Currently in England, people with cervixes are invited to attend their screening appointment every three years.

There are plans to extend this to five yearly gaps, which has caused some concern.

This new test is to ‘out-perform’ the current model, so now the study is being tested on women who have been vaccinated against HPV, and on self-sampled vaginal swabs.

Athena Lamnisos, CEO, The Eve Appeal, says: ‘It’s so welcome to see screening tools and predictive tests becoming more effective.

‘We want to prevent cancer – and we know with cervical cancer that we can intervene at an early stage.

‘This new method is more specific and doesn’t lead to over treatment which is good news for cervical cancer prevention and great news for everyone who needs to be screened.’

Cervical cancer screenings need more research – and perhaps this will begin to pave the way towards that.

You, me & HPV

This week, is looking at HPV and its related cancers from a range of perspectives.

By and large HPV isn’t something to worry about – but it is something to be aware of.

HPV is something that eight in 10 of us will encounter at some stage of our lives. It’s spread through skin-to-skin contact, not just penetrative sex. There is even some evidence to suggest it can spread through deep kissing.

It isn’t tested for in a standard sexual health screening, so it’s near impossible to know when or where a person might have contracted it or who they might have passed it onto.

For most people, their bodies will fight the virus off in around one to two years without any lasting effects. For some people however, it can make them more vulnerable to cancers of the cervix, anus, head and neck, penis, vagina and vulva.

Over this week, we’ll be exploring the human issues that come with HPV and its related cancers.

For more health information, please visit Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, The Eve Appeal, the No Man campaign and The Anal Cancer Foundation.

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