Unmet clinical needs in cervical cancer screening

MLO Med Lab Obs. 2016 Jan;48(1):8, 10, 14; quiz 15.


Cancer rates worldwide are expected to increase disproportionally in coming decades relative to the projected increase in population, especially in the developing world. The general unavailability of the Pap test and the cost of the HPV test in the developing world have precluded the deployment of effective cervical cancer screening programs in many developing countries. Recent improvements in testing technology arise from a need to overcome the significant limitations of the Pap test and HPV test, but results require first-world technology and validation. Developing countries, where cervical cancer remains one of the most important causes of cancer death, have the greatest need for an affordable, easy-to-use, and highly reliable cancer screening method that can return a diagnosis through efficient laboratory analysis or, more easily, at a woman's point of care. While research, testing, and vaccine improvements in recent years continue to lower the incidence of cervical cancer in some developed countries such as the U.S., HPV testing research needs to do more than test for the presence of virus. The tests must determine the presence and progression of cervical disease. Tests should be more sensitive and specific than Pap tests and Pap-related tests, and should be accurate in more than 90 percent of cases. Tests also need to be low-cost, objective, and easy to perform so screening programs can be widely implemented in developing countries where the need for a better cervical cancer screening test is highest. Such tests may be available through the recent advances in specific biomarkers of cervical cancer and multiplex detection technologies. Development of the next generation of cervical cancer tests that are more specific, sensitive, and informative than the traditional Pap or HPV test will make a significant impact on the reduction of cervical cancer worldwide.

MeSH terms

  • Developing Countries
  • Diagnostic Tests, Routine
  • Early Detection of Cancer*
  • Education, Continuing
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Needs Assessment*
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / diagnosis*