New HPV Test Is an Additional Screening Option

Andrew M. Kaunitz, MD


May 21, 2014

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Hello. I'm Andrew Kaunitz, Professor and Associate Chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Florida College of Medicine in Jacksonville. Today I would like to discuss the US Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) recent decision[1] to approve HPV testing as primary screening for cervical cancer.

Historically, cytology has served as the primary screening method for cervical cancer. More recently, HPV testing has been performed to better triage findings of atypical squamous cells of uncertain significance or routinely together with cytology as co-testing.

Widespread screening based on cytology has resulted in a profound reduction in the incidence of and mortality from cervical cancer, representing arguably the most effective cancer screening program the world has witnessed. Some groups have opposed the FDA's decision, arguing that screening based on HPV testing has not been adequately assessed.

The FDA has pointed out that approving HPV testing as a primary screening tool does not mandate adoption of this strategy. It simply means that this approach represents an additional screening option. In a response[2] to the FDA's announcement, the American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology indicated that although they do not anticipate any changes to their recommendations for cervical cancer screening over the short term, they look forward to "providing guidance for integrating primary HPV testing into our collection of recommended screening protocols to facilitate individual patient needs for appropriate cervical cancer screening and indicated follow up."

Cervical cancer screening strategies have evolved rapidly in recent years, improving care but also challenging clinicians to remain up-to-date in this arena.

Stay tuned. It seems we can look forward to yet another major change in the screening paradigm. Thank you. I'm Andrew Kaunitz


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