January 13, 2006

Newer cervical cancer test no better than the old?

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Findings from a review of
published studies suggest that the newer liquid-based cervical
cancer tests are no better than the conventional Pap test for
checking for signs of cervical cancer. However, definitive
research in this area is lacking, so the authors are calling
for large randomized controlled trials.

Developed as an alternative to the traditional Pap smear,
liquid-based "cytology" uses a thin layer of cells that yields
results faster than the Pap test and is thought to be more
sensitive than the Pap smear. The newer tests are also believed
to generate fewer unsatisfactory slide results. While some
countries have adopted liquid-based cytology as a screening
method, controversy regarding its benefits persists.

In a review of 56 studies, including more than one million
slides, that looked at liquid-based and conventional cytology,
Dr. Elizabeth Davey, from the University of Sydney in
Australia, and colleagues found little differences in the two

They report in the Lancet this week that the liquid-based
tests did not detect any more serious cervical lesions, which
could lead to cancer, than the conventional tests. Liquid-based
and conventional cytology also produced a similar number of
unsatisfactory slides.

However, only four studies had sufficient data to determine
the sensitivity and specificity of both types of cytology,
suggesting, the researchers conclude, that much more study is
needed before firm conclusions can be drawn.

SOURCE: The Lancet January 14, 2006.