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HPV test approach 'boosts cervical screening'

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Human papillomavirus (HPV) testing followed by a smear test if patients prove to be HPV positive is the most effective approach to cervical screening, according to new research.

A study team based in the Netherlands worked with about 26,000 women, giving them both smear and HPV tests in a bid to establish the best way to use HPV testing for cervical screening.

The researchers, based at the VU University Medical Centre in Amsterdam, also examined how likely patients with different combinations of test results were to experience severe cervical cell changes - known as CIN3.

According to the team’s results, which were published in the British Journal of Cancer, HPV testing used as first line screening, followed by smear tests for those with a positive result, led to an improvement in performance of an HPV test for cervical screening.

Such an approach, the report argued, would see only patients with the highest risks of having CIN3 referred for further tests, which would help cut back on unnecessary examinations and pick up more serious cervical cell changes.

Study author Dr Chris Meijer said: “A smear test is still a very useful way to estimate a woman’s risk of severe cervical changes and can help maximise the benefits of HPV testing in a cervical screening programme.”

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