The annual Pap smear could become a relic if a new DNA test proves as effective as promised. According to a study published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine, a new screening involving DNA could be better than all other tests in detecting HPV and cervical cancer.
For women over 30, the test would only have to be performed every three, five, or 10 years, which would mean an end to the annual smear. But doctors are hesitant to abandon Paps altogether, since the procedure has been incredibly effective at reducing rates of cervical cancer. The new test could be most helpful in lower-income countries, where there are fewer doctors trained to read Pap smears and it's more difficult for women to return for followup appointments. I'm sure I'm not the only one who would welcome a less invasive test; what do you think?