P

ap tests are one of the most familiar — and successful — cancer screening tests ever invented. Since their introduction in the 1950s, cervical cancer deaths in the US have fallen by more than 60 percent.

But now, a growing number of scientists say, the Pap may be past its prime.

This is a STAT Plus article and you can unlock it by subscribing to STAT Plus today. It's easy! Your first 30 days are free and if you don't enjoy your subscription you can cancel any time.
Already a subscriber? Log in here.

Leave a Reply to Lauren Cancel reply

Please enter your name.
Please enter a comment.

  • “With fewer actual cases of cervical cancer in the population due to vaccination”. There is absolutely no evidence that the HPV vaccine reduces any type of cancer, cervical or otherwise. It is a slow growing cancer (think an average of 20 years) so we have not had time to assess cancer rates since the HPV vaccine approval in 2006. This is how large scale lies are spread, by reporters not doing their job.

  • What evidence do they have that supports the claim that the HPV vaccine prevents HPV? Also, if “…about 90 percent of HPV infections clear on their own”, why are we being so aggressive with the very controversial Gardasil vaccine? Because profit.

  • I’m at a loss as to what routine gynecologist visits prevent. Gynecologists are extremely dismissive. I had symptoms of thyroid disease, complained to my ob gyn who blew me off. Even if she had listened, she would have just given me the pill (which I did try after researching on my own and it did nothing to help me). But instead I suffered up so many nights in pain, wanting to die because these evil vicious c**ts don’t care about your problems unless you can’t get pregnant. I haven’t been to a gynecologist in over 16 years and never will go back.

  • In the last thirty years or so, industry has been very successful at inducing collective amnesia in the culture in general and even within the medical profession. It was once well understood that cervical cancer rates were considerably higher than the general population among the wives of men who worked in so-called “dirty industries”: ship-building, for example, coal mining, and various other activities where men were bringing home a variety of toxic substances and transferring them to their wives through physical contact or even when the women laundered their husbands’ clothes.

    These facts, inconvenient to industry, have fallen into the memory hole, and nowadays we are supposed to believe that almost all cervical cancer is caused by HPV. This is convenient to the manufacturers of the HPV vaccine, but it’s not the full story. Are those excess Appalachian rates in coal-mining or formerly coal-mining areas? If so, what a shame – and what a lost opportunity – to be testing them for HPV, when the 13% excess of cervical cancers in their region may be caused by coal dust, not by HPV at all.

    As for the “whopping 19 percent of cervical cancers [that] were missed by an HPV test-only screen,” that Quest Diagnostics found, could it be that the HPV screen couldn’t detect these cancers because, again, they were not caused by HPV?

    • Interesting information. That could account for some of the missed cases, it certainly makes sense, though there’s also the fact that the cancer causing HPV subtypes can mutate over time due to the vaccine (similar to what’s happening with pertussis). When we are so hyper-focused on vaccines, we miss the big picture.

    • While the notion of environmental causes of cervical cancer is interesting and plausible (I think of the famous scrotal cancer cases among young chimney sweeps in the UK), it also sounds entirely anecdotal/speculative. Has this been studied in a controlled way?

      As a speculative alternative explanation, perhaps HPV infection rates are higher among those employed in “dirty industries”?

    • HPV does cause the majority of cervical cancers. My daughter had cervical cancer and I have read the studies. However, The virus is cleared in the vast majority of women. My guess would be that the toxic coal dust is the reason for the high cancer rate not because the HPV doesn’t cause the cancer but because the toxic effect of the coal dust prevents the immune system from clearing it. Even after the cancer was cut out her paps were bad until we found out she had celiac disease. Once she got that under control her paps started coming back OK. Cancer like all disease isn’t caused by just one thing. Toxins of all sorts are weakening our immune systems but the medical industry is reluctant to acknowledge that because it is very complex and most of the research being done is by pharmaceutical companies and they aren’t looking at prevention but on how to treat symptoms so they can make money.

  • the HPV lie needs to be investigated & clarified with the public. Labs are targeting women, shaming them for having sex & using them for cervical biopsies. That is illegal. This article is a Lie & the HPV Vaccine is a fraud.

    • Using them for cervical biopsies? Shaming women for having sex? The job vaccine a fraud? Are you out of your mind or do you live in California? How is HPV vaccine or test worse than getting a Pap smear abt shaming women for sex? the main problem of getting rid of the PAP smear is that women will not get gyn checkups which can address many other problems and prevent other issues. Avoiding checkups is never a good option when preventing disease only benefits the individual and society

  • I think Emma McKim Mitchell brings up a good point regarding at-home tests. Looking at limited endpoints (disease specific outcomes) measures the direct impact of that screening tool, but it doesn’t report on the overall general health outcomes that may result from shifting care paradigms. I would like to see the field place more emphasis on measuring longer term general health outcomes when reporting on interventions that can drastically change care structure. At the very least, reviewers should insist that authors discuss these caveats before before making conclusions on the value of a novel intervention.

    • PAP smear saved my life otherwise my cancer (which was UTERINE) may have gone undetected for a long time. Strange cells appeared on the first and repeat PAP and a biopsy was ordered. PAP smears seem to be helpful in initially identifying other possible problems, as was my case.

Sign up for our Morning Rounds newsletter

Your daily dose of news in health and medicine.