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HPV testing best option for women with abnormal smears

HPV testing is better than repeat smear for their psychological wellbeing

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Offering women with an abnormal smear test HPV testing rather than a repeat smear test is better for their psychological wellbeing, Australian researchers have found.

Researchers at the University of Sydney assessed which of three strategies – a HPV test, a repeat cervical smear at six months or choice of either test – resulted in the best psychosocial outcomes for women with a borderline abnormal smear.

The study involved 314 women across Australia aged 16 to 70 years. Psychosocial outcomes, including worry about cervical cancer, intrusive thoughts and anxiety about the abnormal smear, were assessed regularly over 12 months.

The results published on bmj.com showed that after two weeks, some psychosocial outcomes were worse for women allocated to HPV testing compared with those in the smear testing group. However, over the 12 months, distress about the abnormal smear was lowest in women allocated to HPV testing and highest in the repeat smear testing group.

Dr Kirsten McCaffery, of the School of Public Health, University of Sydney in Australia, said: “Overall, women were more satisfied with HPV triage or a choice, and outcomes were worse for women allocated to smear testing. The findings suggest that there are no lasting psychosocial disadvantages to HPV triage, and in view of other potential advantages, the findings support the move towards HPV triage in the UK for women with borderline smear results.”

HPV testing for women with borderline cervical abnormalities is already available in the US and Europe and will soon be introduced into the cervical screening programme in England and Wales.

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