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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Cancer-Screening Power of Pap Test Is Expanding

Bradley M. Linzie, MD, FCAP, explains to Precious Marshall of Minneapolis, Minn., her Pap test slide at NorthPoint Health & Wellness Clinic in Minneapolis, Minn. in October. (College of American Pathologists/PRNewsfoto)

Bradley M. Linzie, MD, FCAP, explains to Precious Marshall of Minneapolis, Minn., her Pap test slide at NorthPoint Health & Wellness Clinic in Minneapolis, Minn. in October. (College of American Pathologists/PRNewsfoto)

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University been able to use samples collected from a Pap smear to indicate the presence of endometrial and ovarian cancers.

A pap test is a routine gynecological test used to screen for cervical cancer. Using a brush, cells are scraped from the cervix and examined for signs of mutation which would indicate cancer.

Dr. Luis Diaz and his research team have used genetic testing on samples collected in the same way to test for ovarian cancer and endometrial cancer, a cancer of the uterus.

A research paper published in the journal Science Translational Medicine showed that preliminary tests on 46 women were able to detect all 24 cases of endometrial cancer and nine of the 22 cases of ovarian cancer.

The difference in result seems to be proximity of the effected organs to the cervix. The test looks at cells shed by tumors; the closer the tumor is to the cervix the more cells there are to test.

Scientists will explore getting cells from further inside the cervix and and different points during the menstrual cycle to improve the tests.

While the research is in it’s preliminary stages and tests will not be used on patient samples for a while, the pap test will not change at all for patients.

Up until this point, there were no screening tests for ovarian or endometiral cancer.

More than 22,000 U.S. women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year, and more than 15,000 die. Endometrial cancer affects about 47,000 women a year, and kills about 8,000.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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