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According to two groups of cancer research experts, doctors should replace the Pap test with more accurate human papilloma virus test for women as young as 25. Experts on cervical cancer released this information on Thursday in the new interim guidelines.
Human papilloma virus (HPV) is the most widespread sexually transmitted infection. Being common in all sexes, most people do not realize they carry HPV and that they are infecting their partners. In the U.S. alone, more than 12,000 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2011 and this year, a little over 4,000 died of this condition, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
The present day method for diagnosing cervical cancer in the Pap test, which is recommended for women between 21 and 65 every three years. HPV testing is usually done along with the Pap test for women over 30 years.
But more recently, a study from July of last year has shown that HPV testing alone could quite possibly be enough as it is able to recognize cancerous cells. Over one million women with ages varying from 30 to 64 participated in the research.
What the Pap test does is examine cells collected from the cervix under a microscope in order to detect any abnormalities. The HPV test specifically seeks evidence of the presence of the two most common types of human papilloma virus. A positive result means that further analysis is required, including a biopsy.
However, some patients and doctors are reluctant to follow the new guidelines. Although they have been put in place last year, the Pap test has been the central women’s health care method for decades.
Critics among the experts in cervical cancer testing include the concern that because not all human papilloma viruses become cancerous, there would be an overflow of further unnecessary investigations.
The presence of HPV in women over 30 may lead to cancer, while for teenagers and people in their 20s, the infection is common and usually dissipates on itself. This is the reason behind the current guidelines that recommend the HPV test for people over 30. Using the HPV test for women between 25 and 29 is likely to increase the number of tests. But doctors have said that this is the price to pay for a more precise testing, as research has shown the HPV test ends up detecting more cancerous cells.
A negative result on the HPV test means that there is less than a 1% chance that the patient will develop cancer, which provides more accuracy and assurance for people than the Pap screening.
But both tests provide protection for women and the Pap test, which is still the primary test women in their 20s, is not going away.
Image Source: Daily Mail