A new urine test can detect cervical cancer

A new urine test can detect HPV, the virus that causes cervical cancer, according to New Scientist. For women who avoid smear tests like the plague, this could be a useful, non-invasive first step in screening. It might also be useful in developing countries where it’s far easier to test a sample than look at cells under a microscope.

As most women know, the traditional test involves a doctor inserting a speculum to hold open the vagina before collecting cells from the cervix with a brush. As most women also know, this is never a comfortable experience, and is sometimes an agonising one. DNA tests for HPV are currently being piloted in the UK and have already been approved in the US. These also involve taking a sample from the cervix but are more sensitive than traditional tests, with less chance of a false negative.

Neha Pathak and her team at the women’s health research unit at Queen Mary University of London looked at the results of 14 clinical trials of urine testing for HPV compared to the DNA test. They found that the urine test results correctly identified 87% of positive samples and 94% of negative, so it’s similarly effective at ruling out the possibility of cervical cancer.

‘It suggests urine testing is definitely something worth investigating further,’ Pathak said. She hasn’t yet been able to compare urine test results with traditional smear test results, but hopes to do so in future, and believes that they might be similarly effective – meaning pain-free testing could be on the horizon for all of us.

Image via University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources & Environment’s Flickr.

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Diane Shipley

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