Cervical Cancer Test May Be Widely Used
April 1, 2003
A government ruling Monday allows testing for the virus responsible for most cases of cervical cancer to become part of every regular Pap smear for women over 30. The human papillomavirus (HPV) test, estimated to cost $50, will be an elective addition to a woman's Pap test. As a result of the Food and Drug Administration's decision, women who show no signs of cancer and are free of the HPV virus in their Pap smear can now wait up to three years to be rechecked, according to new physician guidelines. Women with signs of HPV infection, or those who opt not to add the HPV test, will need more frequent Paps.Adapted from:
"For some women, the advantage of being screened less frequently will be a big advantage. Others will want to stay with the tried-and-true," said Dr. Mark Schiffman of the National Cancer Institute. Some 40 million Americans are thought to be infected with HPV at any given time. Most HPV strains are symptomless and transient, although a few types of the virus can cause cervical cancer.
Previously offered as a follow-up for inconclusive Pap smears, Maryland-based DiGene Corp.'s HPV test uses the same cells collected for a Pap. Now that the FDA has approved its wider use, DiGene's test will require retooling patient information, said Schiffman. A positive HPV result, combined with a negative Pap, could cause panic among some women. Schiffman said most of these women will become infection-free within the year. He recommends that they be monitored within six to 12 months to detect the few who will develop problems.
Although it is unclear how many cases of cervical cancer the new test may find, Dr. Ralph Richart of Columbia University said it should help detect rare but fast-growing forms of cervical cancer that can present between regular Paps.
03.31.03; Lauran Neergaard
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.