Pap test versus HPV/DNA screening
Marissa Jaret-Winokur (Tracy Turnblad in the Broadway version of "Hairspray") was diagnosed with cervical cancer after a Pap smear identified rogue cells in her cervix. She had a hysterectomy but spared her ovaries, and seven years later gave birth to a son using a surrogate. That Pap test did its job well. But now a Food and Drug Administration advisory committee has unanimously recommended a human papilloma virus (HPV) DNA test replace the Pap test as the first line check for cervical cancer in women 25 and older.
Why make the change? The Pap smear is a lab exam of cervical cells that determines if they look precancerous or cancerous. And it delivers a lot of false positive and false negative results. The HPV/DNA test checks inside your cervical cells and correctly IDs cancer-causing strains of HPV 16 and 18 (plus 12 other high-risk strains) 90 percent to 95 percent of the time.
But that doesn't mean you should skip your Pap right now. Since Pap tests were introduced in the 1940s, the death rate for cervical cancer has plummeted 70 percent. So, until the Food and Drug Administration decides if they'll accept the committee recommendations, healthy women should get a Pap test every three years from age 21 (more often if suspect cells are seen). And between ages 30-65 the America Cancer Society says it's smart to have co-testing with both the Pap and HPV test (there's an approved version already). And even if it's not your year for a cervical cancer screening, see your doc for a wellness checkup.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into "The Dr. Oz Show" or visit www.sharecare.com.
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