Testing method may be culprit behind abnormal pap test results

Pathologists at Ohio State University re-checked the Pap smears of 84 women whose initial Pap results were diagnosed as abnormal using the ThinPrep testing method. All women were on an oral contraceptive. In each case, the cells lining the cervix looked like cells infected with the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV), a leading cause of cervical cancer.

The new diagnoses found that in two-thirds of the women, there were no abnormal cervical squamous cells, or, more precisely, atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance (ASCUS)/favor low-grade dysplasia. The presence of dysplasia abnormal cells indicates that a woman is infected with HPV, said Gerard Nuovo, the study's lead author and a professor of pathology at Ohio State University.

"That's a lot of women who were told that they had a venereal disease but really didn't," he said. "Not only that, but HPV is also a precursor of cervical cancer. We don't see cases of cervical cancer without the virus present."

The study appears in a recent issue of the journal Cancer Cytopathology.

When diagnosing a Pap culture, pathologists look for irregularities in cervical squamous cells. Squamous cells line the surface of an organ

Contact: Gerard Nuovo
Ohio State University

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