New Pap Test Guidelines Could Mean Less Fear and Anxiety for Millions of Women
April 24, 2002
A panel of experts is recommending a more convenient follow-up treatment for the millions of women whose cervical cancer results come back inconclusive. The new Pap test guidelines, which could mean fewer return visits and less anxiety, reflect doctors' better understanding in recent years of the chief cause of cervical cancer, the human papillomavirus (HPV). Currently, many of the estimated 2.5 million American women a year with abnormal but inconclusive results are given at least two follow-up Pap tests within a year; or a colposcopy test, in which the cervix is examined and biopsied; or a test for HPV.Adapted from:
The new guidelines say HPV testing alone should be the preferred method for many women. In many cases, the HPV test can be done from the Pap test sample. If the HPV test is negative for the riskiest forms of the virus -- as is the case in about half of these women -- the patient can be virtually assured she does not have cancer and does not need more follow-up testing, the experts said.
The guidelines were created at a conference last year sponsored by the American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology. Participants were representatives from 29 professional groups, including the American Cancer Society (ACS) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The guidelines, which appear in today's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (2002;287:2120-2129), reflect how a few high-risk strains of HPV are the primary cause of cervical cancer. "Right now, there's a lot of overdiagnosis, a lot of extra unneeded follow-up tests that are being done, which are a tremendous health care cost but also a tremendous cost to the women in terms of anxiety, time and discomfort," said the ACS's Debbie Saslow.
04.24.02; Lindsey Tanner
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.