Single smear test to detect three types of cancer has been developed
A new breakthrough in the fight against female cancer was announced this week with the development of a single smear test that will detect three types of cancer which currently claim 7,000 female lives each year.
The new test, currently being developed in the US, is based on the current successes of the cervical smear test will detect cancer in the cervix, womb and ovaries.
Until now there has been no method of detecting endometrial cancer, or ovarian tumours, which have been dubbed ‘the silent killer’.
In trials the test detected over 40 per cent of ovarian tumours. These are of particular concern as they exhibit no symptoms in the early stages and are usually not diagnosed until far too late, proving fatal in around two thirds of cases.
It also had a 100 per cent success rate in detecting endometrial cancer, a cancer of the womb lining, which although easier to spot, still causes 1,400 deaths per year.
The test, which is being developed by researchers at the John Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Centre in Baltimore, Maryland, builds on the existing smear test which looks for abnormalities in the cervix.
The five-minute exam is currently offered every three years to women aged 25 to 49 and every five years for women up to the age of 65 and has cut the number of cases of cervical cancer by 75 per cent since its introduction.
Further research and extensive trials need to be completed, and experts recommend it will be at least a decade before the test, known as PapGene, is ready to be used on the public.
Hazel Nunn of Cancer Research UK said: ‘Such promising results warrant research on a larger scale to see if this approach could pick up these diseases in the early stages when the chances of survival are best.’