Women have been getting Pap tests for over 60 years to test for cervical cancer. Now two studies show that the test that detects HPV, a virus that can cause certain types of cervical cancer, may be far more effective at catching malignancies.
One of the studies tested more than 10,000 women between the ages of 30 and 69. The HPV test detected 94.6% of the abnormal growths that lead to cervical cancer, while the Pap test only found 55.4%. If both tests were used together, 100% of the growths were found.
The HPV test still requires a sample of your cervical cells (yes, they use the stirrups and the speculum), but if your doctor recommends getting both tests, she can do them both at the same time.
The only thing about this HPV test is that it has a slightly higher rate of false positive readings, and it's not as effective in younger women. I also found that the HPV test isn't always covered by health insurance, so if you want the test, you may end up paying for it yourself.
Right now, using this HPV test as the primary screening tool instead of the Pap test is not FDA approved. Who knows though? Down the road the Pap test may be replaced by the HPV test, and because it's so effective, it may only need to be performed every 3-5 years. This is great news for those of us who despise our annual exams.
Fit's Tips: Gardasil is a vaccine used to prevent certain types of HPV. Sexually active women who are not in a monogamous relationship may want to think about getting the vaccine, although it should be noted that it doesn't prevent all types of cervical cancer, so gyno visits are still necessary.