May 30, 2016
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Pap Smear (cont.)

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What is the current status of human papilloma virus (HPV) testing?

HPV is a sexually transmitted virus that may be spread from one person to another even when the genital sores are not visible. Many sexually active people are carriers of HPV, very often without even knowing they are carriers. It is estimated that up to 60% of sexually active women harbor this virus on their cervix or in their vaginal area. It is not unusual for a woman to be unaware that she has HPV - only to find out that her Pap smear shows evidence of HPV.

HPV is not curable, although the cellular damage it causes is generally treatable and vaccines against the most commonly found HPV types are available.

The main use of HPV testing in screening for cervical cancer is for determination of treatment and follow-up recommendations for women with Pap smears interpreted as atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance (ASC-US).

With Pap smears so available, why are women still dying of cervical cancer?

It is critically important to recognize that the women who are at highest risk for abnormal Pap smear testing are those who are not getting regular Pap testing. Therefore, it follows that in order to improve overall cervical cancer screening, women who are not getting regular Pap smears should be educated about and offered Pap testing. These under-served women should be the most heavily targeted for Pap screening.

Between 60% and 80% of American women who are newly diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer have not had a Pap smear in the past five years and may never have had one. Women who have not had Pap smear screening tend to be concentrated in certain population groups including:

  • Older women;
  • The uninsured;
  • Ethnic minorities, especially Latino, African American, and Asian American women;
  • Poor women; and
  • Women in rural areas.

Many doctors feel that the emphasis should be on universal access to proper Pap screening as opposed to the comparatively small benefit that would come from utilizing the newer technologies in women already undergoing screening. Cervical cancer is one of the most common causes of cancer worldwide. It is also one of the most preventable and treatable cancers.

REFERENCE:

"Cervical cancer screening tests: Techniques and test characteristics of cervical cytology and human papillomavirus testing"
uptodate.com


Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/6/2016

Source: MedicineNet.com
http://www.medicinenet.com/pap_smear/article.htm

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