Monday, February 6, 2012

Ask Us Anything: Should I Have an HPV Test?

"Should I have an HPV test if I am over 30, even if my Pap is normal?"

Dr. Ali Ghomi Responds:

There are many types of the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is a sexually transmitted disease. High-risk types can cause cervical changes that may lead to cervical cancer.

The HPV test may be performed at the same time as a pap smear. A pap smear looks for signs of abnormal cell changes, based on a sample of cells from your cervix. An HPV test examines those same cells for the virus that causes the abnormal cell changes that lead to cervical cancer.

If your Pap is normal and you're over 30, you don't necessarily need an HPV test. However, HPV typing along with the Pap test may be performed routinely in women older than 30-35.

The only advantage of combining the two tests is that when both are negative, the next pap test may be postponed 3 years, given the very low probability of developing abnormal findings in the meantime.

For women under 30, cervical screening with combined Pap and HPV testing is not recommended because of the relatively high prevalence of HPV infection in this age group, which would make the yield of the combined test low. For the most part, HPV infections are self-limited and the body's immune system fights off or suppresses the HPV virus, especially in the adolescent patient.

— Dr. Ali Ghomi

Dr. Ghomi is the Director of Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgery and Chair of The Robotic Surgical Committee at Sisters of Charity Hospital. He is the only physician in Western New York who performs Sacrocolpopexy Prolapse surgery using the da Vinci® robot. Sacrocolpopexy is a proven “gold standard” procedure worldwide to repair severe pelvic prolapse. Click here to learn more about Catholic Health's OBGYN services.

If you have a question about your health, click here to ask our experts.

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