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A Test That's Better Than the Pap?

A Test That's Better Than the Pap?

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.


Annanina Annanina 10 years
ohhhhhhhhhh...I have to do my pap.I'm scared:(
Martini-Rossi Martini-Rossi 10 years
My gyno told me that Gardasil doesn’t guarantee prevention. So even if you do get the vaccine you still may get cancer. Gardasil, I guess like many other vaccines, is expense and is about 3 - 4 different shots in a course of a few months. I for one am not convinced that Gardasil is necessary right now. They need to a vaccine that will prevent all cancers all together. I am not going to get injected with it, cross my fingers and hope I don’t the other types of ovarian cancers that I am STILL at risk of.
jenintx jenintx 10 years
i agree with you, lily. i'm wondering how this new test works. does it detect the virus when it's dormant? i'm assuming it would if it detects 94 percent of abnormal growths, but if it only detects abnormal growths and not necessarily the virus itself, it would never be safe to only visit the gyno every 3-5 years. women, as well as men, can carry the hpv virus and never know they have it b/c most doctors don't even test for it unless your pap comes back abnormal. i'm not sure if the old test will detect it if it's dormant; i've never asked my gyno. and if you've ever had unprotected sex with anyone, even if you're in a monogamous relationship, you can still get hpv if the virus is dormant in one of you. when deciding whether i should get the vaccine, i read up (and talked to my gyno) extensively on this. from what i've read, there are more than 100 strains of hpv and the vaccine supposedly only protects against four of them. if this is true, even the vaccine won't wholely protect you against the virus.
Lovely_1 Lovely_1 10 years
That is awesome, I will remember that next time I got see my doc ;)
lily314 lily314 10 years
"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." That's an incorrect statistical inference. You can't just add the two numbers together than say that you're covered 100%. In the cases that the HPV test fails to detect the abnormal growths, there is still a chance that the Pap test will also fail. I hope this statement didn't come from the study, because then I'd be worried about the scientists who apparently never took an intro stat class.
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