DNA alternative to Pap smear sparks medical debate

WASHINGTON - A high-tech screening tool for cervical cancer is facing pushback from more than a dozen patient groups, who warn that the genetic test could displace a simpler, cheaper and more established mainstay of women's health: the Pap smear.

The new test comes from Roche and uses DNA to detect the human papillomavirus, or HPV, which that causes nearly all cases of cervical cancer. While such technology has been available for years, Roche now wants the FDA to approve its test as a first-choice option for cervical cancer screening, bypassing the decades-old Pap smear.

But a number of women's groups warn that moving to a DNA-only testing model would be a "radical shift" in medical practice that could lead to confusion, higher costs and overtreatment in some women.

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