The new £15 cervical cancer test

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  • A new test for cervical cancer could save thousands of women's lives and replace current smear tests

    Thousands of women’s lives could be saved by a dramatic improvement in testing for cervical cancer.

    The new Cobas test delivers overnight results and is vastly more accurate than the smear test, currently used to spot early signs of the disease. It will cost only £15 a time and could be available in GP surgeries within 12 months.

    Researchers claim that the smear testmisses up to a third of all cervical cancer cases, but this new method picks up almost all of them. Another benefit is that patients may need to be screened every five years, rather than every three.

    The Cobas test detects the Human Papilloma Virus, which triggers abnormalcell growth. Researchers say it picks up cancers much earlier on and is far morereliable.

    Cervical cancer is the second most common form of cancer among young womenand there are almost 3,000 new cases a year. Due to it often being diagnosed late, survival rates are far lower than other cancers.

    While the current screening programme has been credited with increasing survival rates, doctors say it is ‘unreliable’ and ‘subjective’. The reality is that hundreds of women with seemingly normal cervical cellsmay have the HPV virus, and develop cancer months after being given the all-clear.

    Dr Thomas Wright, from Columbia University in New York, which carried out the study said: ‘Up toa third of women diagnosed with cervical cancer have normal smear tests. We think this new test would detect cancers in the vast majority of women.’

    Professor Jack Cuzick, who runs the Centre for Epidemiology, Mathematics and Statistics at the Wolfson Institute in London, said: ‘The sensitivity of this test is much higher. There’s a realisation that the smear test is of inadequate quality.

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