FDA approves test to detect DNA of cancer-causing HPV strains

The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday approved the use of a test for cancer-causing strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), clearing the way for replacement of the Pap smears used to screen most women for cervical cancer.

The FDA said the cobas HPV Test, made by Switzerland's Roche Holding AG, can be used for women age 25 and older to help assess the need for additional diagnostic testing.

The test had previously been approved in conjunction with, or as a follow up to, a Pap test, which examines cervical cells for changes that might become cervical cancer.

Experts have said it will be tough to convince doctors to move from the current testing guidelines, which call for the use of both Pap tests and HPV tests, since there have been no studies directly comparing the regimens.