According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 12,000 women will develop cervical cancer in the United States annually. Cervical cancer most often occurs in women over the age of 30 and all women are at risk of this horrible disease. The main cause of cervical cancer is the human papillomavirus, which is also known as HPV.
What exactly is HPV?
This is a common question that is brought up by women who may or may not carry the virus, or feel they are at risk.
- There are about 100 types of HPV. Approximately 30 of those are spread through genital contact (typically sexual intercourse). There are approximately 13 "high-risk" types of HPV that can cause cervical cancer.
- It is estimated that 80 percent of all women will get one or more types of "genital" HPV at some point in their lives.
- Fortunately, in most people, the body's immune system fights off or suppresses the HPV virus before it causes problems. It is only when the infection persists that it can cause cells to become abnormal.
About the HPV test
The first FDA-approved HPV test was developed by QIAGEN. The digene HPV test detects the presence of high risk HPV strains which can cause cervical cancer. The HPV test is usually used in combination with the Pap test, which looks for the cellular changes caused by the HPV virus. Having an HPV test along with your Pap allows your doctor to make more informed decisions regarding your cervical health.
Who should take the test?
It is recommended that women age 30-65 have an HPV test in combination with the Pap test to provide the most complete information regarding your cervical health.
How do you take the HPV test?
Taking the HPV test is easy - simply request the HPV test along with your Pap. You do not have to undergo any additional tests after the Pap smear, as the same cells which are used from your Pap smear, as the lab usually uses the same cells for both Pap and HPV testing.
How does taking the test lower your risk?