JOURNAL ARTICLE

Human papillomavirus (HPV) testing in the management of women with abnormal Pap smears. Experience of a colposcopy referral clinic

M Ciotti, F Sesti, P Paba, A Benedetto, L Patrizi, A Criscuolo, E Piccione, M Branca, K Syrjänen, C Favalli
European Journal of Gynaecological Oncology 2004, 25 (5): 577-84
15493169

BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Several detailed algorithms for the appropriate use of human papillomavirus (HPV) testing in the management of women with abnormal Pap (Papanicolaou) smears have been launched, but their direct country-to-country adoption is difficult. This necessitates their testing in individual settings, which is ongoing in our colposcopy referral clinic.

METHODS: A series of 224 consecutive women attending the clinic with the usual referral indications (ASC-US or higher in Pap) were examined by the conventional diagnostic tools (PAP smear, colposcopy, punch biopsy) and subjected to HPV testing and viral typing for both low-risk (L-R) and high-risk (H-R) types by nested PCR-based techniques. Predictors of the high-grade diagnostic categories were analysed using both univariate- and multivariate modelling, and the performance characteristics (sensitivity, specificity, NPV, PPV) of all tests in detecting high-grade CIN were calculated.

RESULTS: In the PAP test, ASC-US smears were most common (37.9%), followed by low-grade squamous intraepithelial lesions (LSIL) (26.3%) and high-grade SIL (HSIL) (4.9%). Colposcopy was performed for 180 women, of whom 48.3% had a normal transformation zone (TZ), 40.6% had ATZ1 (abnormal TZ grade 1), and 5.6% had ATZ2. In biopsy (n = 71), 49.3% had CIN1, 5.6% CIN2, and 16.9% CIN3. The HPV test was positive in 64 (28.8%) women, more often in those aged < 35 years (p = 0.025). High-grade colposcopy (ATZ2) was significantly associated with HSIL in the Pap test (OR 20.5; 95% CI: 4.34-96.47), and with HPV test positivity (OR 6.37; 95% CI: 1.58-25.73). The most significant predictors of CIN3 were HSIL in the PAP, HPV test positivity, and high-grade colposcopy. HSIL and HPV test (for H-R types), but not colposcopy, retained their significance as independent predictors of CIN3 also in adjusted multivariate models: OR 88.27; 95% CI 4.17-1867.04, and OR 19.46; 95% CI 2.01-187.75, for the HSIL and H-R HPV test, respectively. Changing the cut-off level of the Pap test from ASC-US to HSIL increased the specificity of the test up to 96.4%, with the loss in sensitivity from 87.5% to 43.8%. Colposcopy (ATZ2) had 92% specificity, and NPV competing with that of the Pap test. The sensitivity of HPV test exceeds that of the Pap test at HSIL cut-off level, but the specificity of the PAP test is clearly superior.

CONCLUSIONS: Accurate predictors of significant cervical pathology (CIN3) are well defined, but the problem is the different performance of the diagnostic tools in clinical practice. A proficient combination of the tests is likely to result in the most satisfactory clinical practice in the management of women with abnormal Pap tests (MAPS).

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