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How Do You Know If You Need An HPV Test To Prevent Cervical Cancer?

One of the biggest hurdles in cervical cancer prevention is getting the right tests at the right time. When a Pap smear is combined with a test for the human papillomavirus (HPV) - the virus known to cause of cervical cancer - abnormal changes in the cervix are most likely to be detected early - and thus easily treated before they become cancerous. The Pap smear alone is only 50 to 85 percent effective, but by adding an HPV test you can increase that accuracy to nearly 100 percent. But how do you know if you should have an HPV test? Hopefully, your healthcare provider will let you know. But taking this Decisionnaire ™ will help you discuss this with your healthcare provider. Place a check in the blank adjacent to any of the statements below that apply to you. If you check all three boxes, tell your doctor that you want an HPV test along with your Pap smear.

___   You are female Cervical cancer only affects women.
___   You have had sexual intercourse Even if you have had just one partner, remember that HPV can remain dormant in the body for many years; therefore, promiscuity (or even more than one partner) is not necessary to be at risk. Even women in mutually monogamous relationships may be affected.
___   You are age 30 or older The HPV test is not recommended for routine use in women under the age of 30, except as a follow-up to an inconclusive Pap. That's because although HPV infections are very common in this age group, most go away or are suppressed by the body without treatment. Think of it like a mammogram. Although breast cancer may occur in younger women, a baseline mammogram isn't recommended until age 35 and routine screening mammograms aren't generally recommended until women reach age 40.

Click here for more information on HPV and cervical cancer.

Created: 7/25/2006  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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