U.S. researchers say there is promising news when it comes to women's health and the routine pap smear test. Researchers say the test, that is used to detect cervical cancer, could also help doctors detect other types of deadly cancer.
Pap tests could get more useful. Doctors are calling this new study an exciting step in detecting more cancers.
Researchers are now saying that the pap smear could be used to spot ovarian and endometrial cancers. In the U.S. about 70,000 women a year are diagnosed with those two cancers; and about 23,000 will die from them.
Dr. DuBeshter said, "Finding a screening test for any gynecological cancer, but in particular ovarian cancer, has been the holy grail of gynecological oncology for decades. This is a totally new way and has potential as a good way of perhaps being effective as a screening test for ovarian cancer."
Currently, there are no tests that can reliably detect ovarian cancer. Most ovarian cancers are detected in later stages and are not curable.
The new study shows that fluid collected from the cervix for a pap test can be used to look for genetic changes that would only be found in endometrial and ovarian tumors. Doctors say pap tests occasionally contain cells shed from the ovaries or the lining of the uterus.
Dr. DuBeshter said, "The test itself is one that uses testing for genes, so it isn't subjective. The genes are either present or not. The fact that they can detect these abnormal genes in a pap smear is very interesting. The only thing that is a little bit of a caveat to the study is that the abnormal genes were only positive or seen in 40 percent of the women with ovarian cancer so that is a problem. You would like a test to detect or be abnormal in all women with ovarian cancer."
Dr. DuBeshter says the study findings, while preliminary, are very intriguing and have a lot of potential.