January is National Cervical Health Awareness Month, and the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center is offering new alternatives to traditional cervical cancer screenings
More than 1 million women across Alabama ages 25 to 29 should be screened by their doctor for cervical cancer. Under the new guidelines, women should be tested using HPV screening alone and not a Pap smear. Pap smear testing will be used as a follow-up if tested HPV positive, as well as remaining the primary testing for women under the age of 25. Clinicians who are caring for these women are seeking out help in order to give their patients the best advice on the health advantages of using the HPV test as the best option for cervical cancer screening.
This was triggered by an FDA approval for the HPV testing method as the primary method for cervical cancer screening. Today’s guidance is being written and led by gynecologic oncologist, Warner Huh, M.D., and is also being published simultaneously in the journals Gynecologic Oncology, Obstetrics & Gynecology, and the Journal of Lower Genital Tract Disease under the title “Use of Primary High Risk Human Papillomavirus Testing for Cervical Cancer Screening: Interim Clinical Guidance.”
“Although FDA approval is critically important for introducing a new screening test or algorithm, providers ultimately rely on guidance or guidelines to help them make the best decisions for their patients and want to understand advantages, disadvantages and unknowns associated with a new screening approach,” said Huh, who is a senior scientist for the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center, Director of the UAB Division of Gynecologic Oncology, and is also a board member for both the American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology and the Society of Gynecologic Oncology.
Patients’ HPV testing will feel the same compared to the Pap smear but the only difference is how these samples are being examined. Medical personnel will run the samples through an automated machine to look for HPV DNA instead of abnormal cells.
“Pap smears miss a fair number of adenocarcinomas. We don’t want a test that will miss disease,” said Huh.
Remember to stay up to date on your personal testing and to talk to your doctor about any questions or concerns you might have with testing or other cervical cancer matters.