Issue No. 21
Can My Pap Test Detect More Than Cervical Cancer?Date: July 16, 2013
Scientists believe they have found a way to tease new results from a cancer screening test already performed on millions of women, potentially saving women from missed diagnoses or surgery.
Developed at Johns Hopkins, the method relies on DNA analysis of cervical fluid collected during Pap smears.
“We were just looking to see if cells from an ovarian cancer or a uterine cancer could travel down to the cervix and be collected in a routine Pap smear,” says Luis Diaz, M.D., a medical oncologist at Johns Hopkins. “We were surprised to find that 100 percent of the uterine cancers were detected and 41 percent of ovarian cancers were detected.”
It is important—and striking—that those results come with no false-positives, Diaz explains. False-positives common in other cancer tests cause unnecessary anxiety and often require further diagnostic testing.
“The next step,” he says, “is to repeat this in a larger number of women to see if we can improve on the 41 percent.”