The Food and Drug Administration has approved the first human papillomavirus test for primary cervical cancer screening: cobas. The test is for women 25 and older, and it can be used alone as a first step to decide if a woman needs additional testing to determine if she has cervical cancer. It can also be used to assess risk factors for developing cancer in the future.
At least 70 percent of people who are sexually active will get the human papillomavirus (HPV) at some point in their lives. However, in many cases, it will go away, but for others this test will be useful for determine their chances of developing the cancer.
"Most people who get HPV only have it for a few months or a year and then it goes away," Dr. Kevin Ault, professor at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, said to CNN. "It's really the people it persists in that are going to the problem."
This new treatment could potentially save lives, as it will be able to reach a different scope of testing.
“Today’s approval offers women and physicians a new option for cervical cancer screening,” said Dr. Alberto Gutierrez in an FDA press release. “Roche Diagnostics conducted a well-designed study that provided the FDA with a reasonable assurance of the safety and effectiveness when used as a primary screening tool for cervical cancer.”
This new test is also a step up from current treatment because the cobas test will look for DNA from the HPV virus. Unfortunately, women will still have to undergo the same procedure as they would with a regular pap smear.
“The potential benefit of [the HPV test] is that everybody that has a precancerous change or cervical cancer will have a positive test,” Dr. Ault said. “You’re not going to miss anybody.”
HPV causes 99 percent of all cervical cancer, and this test can detect the most challenging strains, such as 16 and 18. It can also detect DNA from the other 12 types of other high-risk HPV types.
Unfortunately, many people are going to be scared, Dr. Ault said.