US scientists have developed a new type of smear test that could detect cancer of the ovaries and the womb as well as cervical cancer.
The cervical screening test, also known as a smear test, is a method of detecting pre-cancerous cells in the cervix in order to prevent cervical cancer.
Since the cervical smear test programme was introduced in the 1980s, the number of cervical cancer cases has decreased by about 7% each year.
Now, researchers in the US have developed a test based on the existing procedure called the PapGene test, which also checks for cancer in the ovaries and the womb.
Writing in the journal Science Translational Medicine, scientists first identified specific mutations in endometrial cancer and ovarian cancer tissue samples.
They then looked used the PapGene test to see if they could find matching mutations in cancerous cells from the ovaries or the womb that had broken off and made their way to the cervix.
The PapGene test had a 100% success rate in identifying endometrial cancer, and a 41% success rate at identifying ovarian cancer.
In addition, no cancer-free women were falsely diagnosed with the disease.
This test could turn out to be the first reliable screening test for ovarian and endometrial cancer. The ability to detect ovarian cancer would be a particularly significant breakthrough, since it is often diagnosed in the late stages.
The researchers hope that the new test could one day become a routine screening test much like the smear test is today. However, more research will be needed before the PapGene test is ready for the market.
Hazel Nunn of Cancer Research UK welcomed news of the test, saying: “Looking for evidence of ovarian and womb cancer in women’s smear test samples is a clever idea.
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.”
For access to breakthrough tests and treatments before they are available on the NHS, look for a medical insurance policy with full cancer cover.
© ActiveQuote Ltd. 2013