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Light Technology Lends a Hand to Pap Test

But speculoscopy also leads to many false positives

TUESDAY, Dec. 28, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Using a bright light technology called speculoscopy immediately after a Pap smear may help doctors detect more cervical lesions than the Pap test alone, says a review of three previous studies.

However, this combination approach may also increase the risk of false positives -- cells incorrectly identified as lesions.

The review found that using speculoscopy along with Pap smear helped detect an additional 42 to 62 lesions per 1,000 patients screened. It also increased the number of false positives from 55 to 111 per 1,000 patients screened.

"The trade-off between finding more lesions and more false positives is typical of diagnostic technologies. At issue with speculoscopy is that determining its exact clinical significance, as well as its place among screening tools, awaits further study," review author Charles Turkelson said in a prepared statement.

Since the review identified only three studies that compared Pap smear alone with Pap smear and speculoscopy, the available evidence about speculoscopy is weak, the review noted.

With this technique, doctors cleanse the cervix with an acid solution after a Pap smear. Then, the cervix is inspected with a magnifier and a disposable blue-white light, and the acid helps highlight lesions.

Medicare doesn't cover speculoscopy, and most private health insurers label it an investigational technology.

The findings were published by ECRI, a nonprofit health services research agency.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about cervical cancer.

SOURCE: Health Behavior News Service news release, Dec. 27, 2004
Consumer News