While women have long been advised to get an annual Pap smear test, a new study indicates that women over 30 should get the Pap and an HPV test during visits, to test for the strains that may cause cervical cancer.
Why both? The study, which was funded by Roche Molecular Systems, the makers of the HPV test that was used in this particular study, found that using the Roche HPV test and the Pap test predicted cervical cancer better than using the Pap smear alone. In addition, for women who were already diagnosed with HPV, the HPV test alone was enough.
According to USA Today, using both tests increased accuracy of identifying those who had precancerous lesions by nearly 5 percent.
"This study has demonstrated that it may be possible to replace the Pap smear with a more effective screening strategy employing the use of high risk HPV testing alone," said Dr. Elizabeth Poyner, a gynecologic oncologist and pelvic surgeon at Lenox Hill Hospital, in New York City.
HPV is the most common STI in this country and it's estimated that almost 75 percent of all men and women will have it in their lifetime. Cervical cancer is typically slow-growing and in 2010 in the United States, 12,200 women were diagnosed, with 4,210 women dying of the disease. African-American women are twice as likely to die from cervical cancer than white women.
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