Over the last few years, the increased popularity of the Pap smear has reduced the number of cancer death in women in the U.S.
These tests help find out precancerous cells that would be treated before they form a tumor.
As human papillomavirus or HPV is the main cause of most cervical cancer cases, should HPV testing be used in replacement of the Pap smear?
A new study by the American Cancer Society indicates that the HPV test is more precise than the Pap test.
However, another research from the University of Pittsburgh drew a different conclusion.
Collecting data from more than 13 million people over 9 years, the findings suggested that HPV testing would fail to identify 20 percent of women with cancer during the first year of diagnosis. Subsequently, many of them were detected by the Pap test instead.
For average-risk people, public health officers recommend only Pap testing every three years between 21 and 29 years old.
From 30 to 65 years old, it is recommended to get screening with Pap testing alone every three years, with HPV testing alone every five years, or co-testing every five years.
Scientists believe that having access to both the Pap smear and HPV test can provide doctors and health experts with more information.
People with positive results on an HPV test would have normal or highly abnormal results on Pap smear. It means that the HPV test alone can be limited in categorizing risk. It would be better when patients know whether they are at high, intermediate, or low risk.
Although the authorities have recommended that HPV testing alone is enough, patients and health providers might choose other screening techniques, particularly when the HPV test alone can be limited.
Pap tests would still play an important role in care even when the HPV testing alone is enough. This is because they can provide added information.
Whether it is a Pap or HPV test, the experience of the patients is almost the same without added discomfort with a co-testing option. In fact, there is no general rule.
The relationship between patients and doctors is important. Make sure to be honest about sexual experiences when you are asked with intimate questions. The main goal is to help doctors understand better about possible risk factors so that they could provide you with proper teatments.