|March 2006 · Vol. 18, No. 3
UPDATE on CERVICAL DISEASE
NEW DEVELOPMENTS THAT ARE CHANGING PATIENT CARE
We’re on the way to ending cervical cancer
3 practical advances bring a “new world” into sight
Director, Gynecology and Colposcopy Clinic,
University of California,
It could be the end of the affair with HPV!1 With this exclamation, Prof. Margaret Stanley, the noted human papillomavirus immunologist, expressed the optimism we all share, now that the possibility of conquering cervical cancer is within view. Not yet 25 years have passed since the first sequencing of a genital HPV type, and scarcely 10 years since the International Agency for Research on Cancer proclaimed that HPV causes cervical cancer. It has been 57 years since the discovery that launched an international quest to reduce the cervical cancer rate: George Papanicolaou’s test for early abnormal cell changes that, decades later, were found to be secondary to HPV. We’ve made great progress. What was the 2nd leading cancer in US women in incidence and mortality is now 11th in incidence and 13th in mortality.
But even with perfect attendance at annual screenings, women still get cervical cancer. And many still do not have screenings—they account for about half of all cervical cancers. And the Pap, as good as it is, has flaws. The test is subjective, and sensitivity varies from lab to lab and country to country.