Your dreaded pap smear may soon become a thing of the past: A simple urine test can routinely detect human papillomavirus (HPV), the virus that causes cervical cancer, according to a new study in the British Medical Journal.
After analyzing 14 studies that looked at 1,443 sexually active women, researchers found that compared to cervical smear samples, the urine HPV testing correctly identified positive results 87 percent of the time. They also correctly identified negative results 94 percent of the time. When it came to the high-risk strains—types 16 and 18, which cause the majority of cervical cancer cases—the urine test correctly identified positive results 73 percent of the time and negative results 98 percent of the time.
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"The detection of HPV in urine is non-invasive, easily accessible, and acceptable to women, and a test with these qualities could considerably increase uptake," the researchers explain. And considering the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say most sexually-active men and women will get at least one type of HPV at some point in their lives (some research even suggests 69 percent of people have one strain of HPV), convenient testing methods are crucial in order to safe guard your cervix.
Unfortunately, urine HPV testing is not yet available in clinics because more research is needed to improve accuracy; so don’t cancel your future pap appointments just yet. The Mayo Clinic still recommends one every two years for sexually active women ages 21 to 30. Women over 30 can wait schedule an apt every three.