Cervical Cancer – The Pap Smear and HPV Test Combination
Many women in America are affected by cervical cancer. Nevertheless, there are equal or greater numbers of women who are not affected by the disease but are still rigorously tested. There is no doubt that the pap smear tests are recommended for all girls who have crossed puberty, but the question that persists is whether such testing is frequently required and whether our women and doctors are well-briefed about the same.
Cervical cancer is one of the diseases caused by a virus of the papillomavirus family of viruses called the Human Papillomavirus. This virus has almost 200 types and generally causes no symptoms in people. Some of the HPV viruses cause symptoms like warts while others are responsible for cancers of the vagina, vulva or cervix in females. However, one very important point is that this virus is very common in the surroundings almost like common cold and in most cases the bodies of young girls destroy it and deal with the infection quite effectively. It is only when the infection is harbored for more than a year or so, that risks may be developed.
A doctor must hence be very careful in recommending tests and check-ups for a young girl. If the girl’s body is tested positive for the presence of HPV, then following the results extensive tests and treatments may be administered by the practicing medical professional. But such treatments may result in weakening of the cervix rendering it incapable of carrying forth a successful pregnancy and childbirth in future. Keeping in mind such factors there are a few guidelines that healthcare experts have come up with –
1. Girls in the twenties bracket should be test for HPV only after a positive pap test
2. A combination of the Pap smear and HPV test should be done only on women older than 30 years.
The Centers for Disease Control in the U.S. Department of Health And Human Services has gone further to set one more thumb rule so that women can lead safer lives without the risks of adverse effects of testing. This would bring us to the 3 point:
3. As listed on the official document issued by CDC “1 woman + 2 negative tests = 3 years” which means if the Pap Smear and HPV tests are negative for a woman, then she can refrain form getting tested for cervical cancer for three whole years!
Such a proscription is medically proven by the fact that cervical cancer is a cancer that grows very slowly. In most cases, women far from chances of developing a cancer are repeatedly tested for it. Staying abreast with medical news and research is hence important for doctors and patients alike. Moreover, the HPV test is not here to replace Pap smear tests for cervical cancer as both are equally important. The latter is a preliminary test while the former is a confirmatory test which can guide subsequent treatment when needed.