London: Scientists have developed a new and cheaper test that can accurately detect cervical cancer, a breakthrough which they say could save thousands of women who die of the disease every year.
The test, known as the Cobas test, delivers overnight results and is highly accurate than the smear test that is currently used to spot early signs of the disease, according to the researchers.
The test that will cost only 15 pounds (a little over Rs 1,000) a time and could be available in hospitals within 12 months, said the scientists following successful trials on thousands of women in Britain and the US.
Another benefit of the new test, they said, is that patients may need to be screened only every five years, rather than every three years as required for the smear test, the Daily Mail reported.
It's said that the smear test misses up to a third of all cervical cancer cases - but the new method picks up almost all of them. Cervical cancer is the second most common form of cancer among young women and there are just under 3,000 new cases a year. But it is often diagnosed late so survival rates are far lower than other cancers.
The smear test checks for abnormal cells, but this latest test, developed by drugs company Roche, is able to detect the Human Papilloma Virus (HPOV), which triggers the abnormal cell growth.
As a result, researchers said it picks up cancers much earlier and is also far more reliable. And women would be able to find out their results the very next day, while the smear can take as long as five weeks to be analysed.
Early trials by British and US researchers on 47,000 women over the age of 30 found that it picked up HPV in at least one in ten patients who had been given the all-clear following a smear test.
Dr Thomas Wright, from Columbia University in New York,which carried out the study said: "Up to a third of women diagnosed with cervical cancer have normal smear tests.We think this new test would detect cancers in the vast majority of women. "
Professor Jack Cuzick of the Wolfson Institute in London said: "The sensitivity of this test is much higher. There's a realisation that the smear test is of inadequate quality. There are horror stories. Currently 1,000 women die of cervical cancer a year and many of these deaths are just unnecessary."