Thursday, November 1, 2007

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Screening

The last time I visited my ob-gyn for a check-up I was offered this HPV screening test, and I did one. I hope you consider it as well, for yourselves or your female family members. My insurance company paid for it too.

According to a new study from the New England Journal of Medicine, the HPV test is more accurate than the Pap in detecting cervical cancer. This news was reported in the media as well. Here's a snippet from the release:
"The study concluded that the HPV test's sensitivity -- its ability to accurately detect pre-cancerous lesions without generating false negatives -- was 94.6%, as opposed to 55.4% for Pap."
This simple test can determine if you have high-risk HPV and need to be examined more carefully. The Pap smear may not find abnormal cells until cancer has developed. That's why experts now recommend that women 30 and over (when risk of cervical cancer is highest) get the HPV test along with their Pap.

Now, with regard to the HPV Vaccine (which is different from this test) I personally do not believe in having the HPV vaccine made mandatory for school children because of many reasons, one of them being it has caused adverse reactions and another because it is not a substitute for Pap Smears or screening anyway. It's expensive and I believe it has been rushed to market.

The HPV Test, however, seems to me to be a good tool to have in your health arsenal along with Pap Smears and regular checkups. It will let you know if you have been infected with HPV before abnormal cells develop. If you have HPV you will be able to monitor it with more frequent check-ups. That's a good thing.

The website says:
The most important thing to remember is that HPV infections are very common, and are usually nothing to worry about! In most women, HPV infections go away or are suppressed by the body without causing any problems that need treatment. It is only when an HPV infection stays active that abnormal cells may form.

Key points on the Pap test (Pap smear) and HPV test for women age 30 and over.
1. For the Pap test (or Pap smear), a sample of cervical cells is placed on a slide, which is looked at under a microscope by a lab technologist. This laboratory professional uses his or her judgment and past experience to decide whether the cells look normal or abnormal. Thus, mistakes or misinterpretations can happen.
2. The HPV test uses advanced, automated technology to detect the presence of high-risk types of the virus, which cause cervical cells to become abnormal in the first place. No human interpretation is required.
3. Doing both the Pap and HPV tests together offers maximum peace of mind by reducing your risk of cervical cancer.

Further down on this page it has a place where you can click to show the possibilities of test results coupled with a Pap Smear.
This is one screening test that I have already added to my doctor's visit. Check it out.

And don't forget - eat healthy, exercise, get enough rest, and do whatever you can to boost your immune system. That's the best preventative of all.