Is HPV Testing Better At Detecting Precancers?
The Human Papilloma Virus – HPV is creating a big presence these days. There is extensive news in the media regarding the HPV virus and its link to cancers. Almost all of cervical cancers are caused by HPV. HPV infection is the most common sexually transmitted infection and it can in fact be eliminated by your immune system within a year or two.
What this means is that if you acquire HPV from a sexual encounter it does not mean that the HPV is there to stay with you forever. 80% of the time you immune system gets rid of it. It’s the remaining 20% that creates the problem. When HPV creates permanence on the cells of the cervix they transform these healthy cells into unhealthy precancerous cells which then over many years transforms into a cancer.
There are multiple different HPV strains, over hundreds of them. There are currently 15 strains that have been linked to cancers and they are high risk HPVs specifically:
HPV 16, 18, 31, 33, 35, 39, 45, 51, 52, 56, 58, 59, 68, 73, and 82
HPV 16 and 18 are responsible for most cases of cancers however there is a rising trend of the other high risk HPV causing pre-cancerous change. Our labs in Singapore currently identify HPV 16 and 18 and they group the remaining HPV strains under a category called Other High risk HPV .
Pap Smears Don’t Pick Up HPV. What Do Pap Smears Pick Up Then?
Pap Smears detect the changes to the cells caused by HPV. It picks the effect and consequence of having HPV on the cervix. So researches got smart and decided …hey why don’t offer a test that picks up HPV even before it has an opportunity to make changes to the cervix cells.
And then as a result all their great efforts new studies now show that HPV testing is more sensitive that pap smear testing. At the moment the is no conclusive evidence to show that pap smear can be done away with. We simply want to raise awareness of HPV testing.
So Who Should Really Be Thinking About Getting HPV Testing?
Women between the age of 30-65 should have a HPV testing done once every 5 years. Giving these women better accuracy of picking up any potentially developing cervical precancers.
What About Women In Their 20s ?
Women in their 20s are advised to get pap smears and not HPV tests, because the virus is so common that most would test positive for HPV infection that would likely clear up on their own. But as you age, immunity’s ability to clear the HPV also reduces. It is not wrong however for one to ask for a HPV test although you are in your 20s.
Are Routine Once Every 3 Years Pap Smear Alone Adequate?
Yes they are. However addition of the HPV testing once every 5 years increases the sensitivity of detection of cervical precancers and cancers.
Furthermore HPV testing is no different to a pap smear. It is done exactly in the same manner as a pap smear. A HPV test can simply be added on to the same sample pap smear test that has been done by your doctor. No additional swabs required. No additional longer and uncomfortable vaginal examinations necessary.
The next time you go into your doctors clinic, ask about HPV testing. Afterall it is recommended to be done only once in 5 years. Our female doctors at InSync Medical Clinic are ready to help address your issues concerning this.
Our Female Doctors are ready to listen to your issues. Visit us at InSync Medical Located along East Coast Road in the heart of Katong, Singapore. We also open on Sundays to Serve you.