All women over the age of 30 should get tested for the human papilloma virus, or HPV, according to a new study out today.
This is not the somewhat controversial HPV vaccine. This is a screening test.
The study included result from more than 50,000 women, printed in the Lancet Oncology. It showed that HPV test was a better screening method to prevent cancer than the common pap smear.
A pap test that women are supposed to get annually, checks for cell changes in the cervix that might indicate an infection or cancerous cells.
An HPV test is done the same way, but checks for the virus' DNA.
According to this study, HPV tests discovered significantly more cell changes. Women who had that test had far fewer cancers than women who didn't, in the study.
The HPV test is widely used in North Texas as part of an annual exam, because previous studies have shown its value.
"We've been doing the HPV test in our office for about 7 years,” said Dr. Jay Staub. “And I've actually have negative paps for 5 to 7 to 10 years in a row and had an HPV test that was positive and actually had cervical cancer. So, I think we're headed in that direction. We just don't have the data yet. I think we're going to see studies that indicate that the HPV test is more accurate as a primary screen."
HPV is especially common in younger women. Most clear the virus, without treatment, in a matter of months. So experts believe age 30 is the right time to start HPV testing, when abnormal results could indicate something more serious.
It is covered by most insurance, Medicaid after age 30, and Medicare.