HPV DNA Test
This test is used to detect the human papilloma virus (HPV), which is considered the primary cause of virtually all cervical cancers.
There are at least 30 different types of HPV strains that target the genital area, and are transmitted through sexual, skin-to-skin contact. Of these, approximately 13 are considered to be 'high risk' because they can trigger the development of abnormal cells associated with cervical cancer. The remaining ‘low-risk’ types can cause genital warts.
Although the Pap smear can pick up the cellular changes caused by high-risk types of HPV, it's not as sensitive as the HPV test, which specifically detects the viral DNA.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of the HPV test, along with the Pap, for women age 30 and older (the group most at risk of cervical cancer), as well as for follow-up evaluation in women of all ages whose Pap results are unclear.
As specific as it is, the HPV test is not yet routinely used by the majority of doctors, in part because it is more expensive than a regular Pap test. However, the company that makes the HPV test has told the Annie Appleseed Project that "most insurance companies now reimburse for routine use of HPV testing”. In addition, in California, Kaiser Permanente is now performing the HPV test as a standard of care in all women age 30+.
Where the HPV test has already proven to be invaluable is in helping physicians sort out which Pap smear abnormalities should be pursued. It is also useful in monitoring women with cervical cancer after they have been treated.
Advice from Dr. Richard P. Fried, MD, Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and Senior Attending Physician, StLuke's/Roosevelt Hospital. (From an article in First Report, August 2000).
Breast Ca Res & Treat, 3/04
LINK to comprehensive info about HPV, the HPV test & cervical cancer, site provides important info re who should be tested for HPV, how to get the HPV test & understand test results, what insurance covers, &stories from real women who have had experience with cervical cancer & HPV. In Spanish & English
Norris Cotton Cancer Center
Multiple HPV Genotypes = Higher Risk Cervical Ca
Ctr for Medical Consumers on Gardasil
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