This story about a new DNA test outperforming the annual Pap smear is big. From the New York Times:
Not only could the new test for human papillomavirus, or HPV, save lives; scientists say that women over 30 could drop annual Pap smears and instead have the DNA test just once every 3, 5 or even 10 years, depending on which expert is asked.
The news is based on a study published last week in The New England Journal of Medicine showing a single screening with the DNA test beats all other methods at preventing advanced cancer and death.
The study is “another nail in the coffin” for Pap smears, which will “soon be of mainly historical interest,” said Dr. Paul D. Blumenthal, a professor of gynecology at Stanford medical school who has tested screening techniques in Africa and Asia and was not involved in the study.
But whether the new test is adopted will depend on many factors, including hesitation by gynecologists to abandon Pap smears, which have been remarkably effective. Cervical cancer was a leading cause of death for American women in the 1950s; it now kills fewer than 4,000 a year.