A new cervical cancer test has been found to detect 100% of cervical cancers, according to a report published in The International Journal of Cancer.
Current methods of testing, either screening or the pap smear test, only detect up to half of cervical pre-cancers, whereas in the trial led by Queen Mary University of London, all cancers were detected in a group of 15,744 women, researchers said.
The new test works by examining chemical markers that sit on top of the DNA, forming its "epigenetic profile”.
The most accurate test currently available involves looking for DNA from Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), the primary cause of cervical cancer; however, an estimated 10 million women in the UK are infected by HPV, but fortunately the majority will clear the virus and not actually develop the disease. This means a positive test can cause unnecessary worry.
"This is an enormous development," said lead researcher Professor Attila Lorincz from Queen Mary University of London.
"We're not only astounded by how well this test detects cervical cancer, but it is the first time that anyone has proven the key role of epigenetics in the development of a major solid cancer using data from patients in the clinic. Epigenetic changes are what this cervical cancer test picks up and is exactly why it works so well.
"In contrast to what most researchers and clinicians are saying, we are seeing more and more evidence that it is in fact epigenetics, and not DNA mutations, that drives a whole range of early cancers, including cervical, anal, oropharyngeal, colon, and prostate."
The use of this epigenetics-based test in the clinic would reduce both the number of visits to the doctor and screening appointments by detecting high grade cervical cancer in its early stages, helping to lessen mounting pressure on the NHS.