The medical field is constantly making advances in innovative technologies, procedures and techniques to improve methods of keeping people healthy and fighting disease. Cervical cancer is one of those diseases. For ages the OBGYN doctor has used the Pap smear as the standard test for cervical cancer; however recent developments are revealing that there may be a better way to test women over 30.
Pap Smear Testing Recommendations
Traditionally, women have been encouraged to get Pap tests on a regular basis. This has usually meant testing every 3 years. Current recommendations are every three years for women 21 to 29 and every 5 years for those between 30 and 64 provided they also get tested for human papillomavirus (HPV) at the same time. If the HPV test does not accompany the Pap smear, then the latter test needs to be administered every three years. Women over 65 should talk to their OBGYN doctor about stopping Pap tests.
What’s Different Now
In 2014 the FDA approved testing for HPV. This test uses vaginal and cervical secretions gathered by swabbing to test for HPV. The HPV FOCAL, a new study, compared the two testing methods for reliability in testing for cervical cancer. There is already evidence that HPV testing may be more accurate for detecting the disease. The HPV FOCAL study only added to evidence gathered so far.
Talking with Your OBGYN Doctor About Testing
Until the HPV FOCAL test, there was nothing which compared Pap smears directly against HPV testing to study results for detection of cervical cancer. Even with the results of the new study there are concerns as to whether HPV testing alone can detect cervical cancer. As a result, the practice of using Pap smears along with HPV remains in place.
With this study’s results women 30 and older may want to talk to their OBGYN doctor about the possibility of getting an HPV test to check for cervical cancer. So far neither Pap smear nor HPV testing is perfect for detecting the disease. What the study does reveal, however, is that HPV testing appears to be identify precancerous lesions earlier than Pap smears. More research needs to be done as the results of this new study may affect testing guidelines in the future.
Younger Women and Testing
Women under the age of 30 still need to have Pap smears. Well over half the population of men and women who are sexually active can expect to test positive for the human papilloma virus. HPV usually goes away on its own; however, women over 30 who have HPV are at a greater risk for developing cervical cancer.
OBGYN Doctors Have Yet to Agree
The debate continues whether women over 30 should rely on HPV testing alone or whether the co-testing with the Pap smear is best. Currently using both tests is the gold standard in the United States.
Cypress Women’s Center is a place where women can discuss topics concerning their health freely because we are women helping women. Contact us for more information about cervical cancer testing and your options.