Ladies. Let's chat PAP's. We have all been there. Sitting in a cold room, half naked and nervously waiting all while trying to manoeuvre a less than glamorous paper gown that barely covers our lady bits. We know we have to do it. But, for many of us, smear fear is real. However, according to a new study conducted by University of Manchester scientists, there may be an easier (and less anxiety ridden) way to detect cervical cancer.
The study, led by Dr. Emma Crosbie, found that urine testing was as effective as a cervical smear. The urine test is able to to detect the high risk human papillomavirus (HPV), which is the virus that causes cervical cancer.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cervical cancer was once among the leading cause of death in women in the United States. However, with regular PAP tests, the numbers have drastically decreased. The Mayo Clinic describes a PAP test as: “a procedure that involves collecting cells from your cervix and examining them under a microscope. A Pap test can detect cervical cancer and changes in your cervical cells that may increase your risk of cervical cancer in the future.”
"We're really very excited by this study, which we think has the potential to significantly increase participation rates for cervical cancer screening in a key demographic group," said Crosbie. Women between the ages of 30-35 are at most risk for cervical cancer, but early detection is key. The time frame for early detection is about 5-10 years before women are considered high risk. Since up to a third of women don’t show up for PAP tests, a urinalysis may be just what the doctor ordered. The goal being that women feel more comfortable participating in screening, as well as reaching women in parts of the world where PAP tests don't exist.
During the study, 104 women participated and were screened using two brands of HPV testing kits. Of the women, a total of eighteen were found to have pre-cancerous changes to the cervix and required treatment.
“Urine is very simple to collect and most hospitals in the developed and developing world have access to the lab equipment to process and test the samples. Let us hope this is a new chapter in our fight against cervical cancer, a devastating and pernicious disease," Dr. Crosbie said.
While the research is promising, there is more work to be done. Crosbie hopes that a trial including a larger number of women can be done before it can be used in the NHS.
"These results provide exciting proof of principle that urine HPV testing can pick up cervical pre-cancer cells, but we need to trial it on a greater number of women before it can be used in the NHS. We hope that is going to happen soon," she stated.
Since PAP tests can detect cells in their pre-cancerous state, regular screening is imperative. If there is a way for this to be less stressful and just as effective, we are all for it! In the meantime, while it’s uncomfortable and there’s a list a mile long of things we would rather do, those few seconds of discomfort are more than worth it.