“These are the two ways to use HPV testing,?says Dr. Ferris. “One is as a primary screening adjunct test with a Pap test for women age 30 and older and the other is as a triage test when women have an abnormal Pap smear result.?
An HPV test typically follows an ASC-US Pap smear which at best, is about 80 percent accurate, he says.
However, the HPV test, which is more accurate, has not become widely accepted as a primary screening tool for women age 30 and older, he says, citing cost and the tradition of Pap smears as likely factors.
“This new HPV test could lengthen the interval of screening for cervical cancer. If the new test is as good as the old one and if the HPV test is negative, there is only a 1 percent chance you actually have something wrong,?he says, noting that Pap smears really don’t add much to the equation.
Still, when he lectures around the country and asks for a show of hands of physicians using HPV tests in women over 30, few go up; he hopes that will change.
“I think it’s a possibility in the future that we won’t be doing Pap smears on women over 30; it might just be screening with an HPV test. A lot of experts are suggesting maybe that is the way we should go,?he says.
In fact, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology already recommend HPV testing in all women over 30.
Women under 30 are another matter. Ages 15 to 25 are peak sexual activity years and peak years for HPV infection, says Dr. Ferris. Fortunately, the vast majority of the infections are cleared; ones that persist to age 40 are most likely to cause problems. “Seventy percent of patients clear the infection. The 30 percent who don’t, if they still have it by the time they are age 40, are
Source:Medical College of Georgia