What Every Woman Should Know About HPV Screening

HEALTH  |  July 03, 2017
  • 1. If it’s true that nearly everyone will have HPB, why should people worry about it? Isn’t it just like the common cold?
    1 / 4 1. If it’s true that nearly everyone will have HPB, why should people worry about it? Isn’t it just like the common cold?

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    Dr JN: I think the key is that people should be aware of HPV and what it could potentially do. I think what people shouldn’t do is be worried about it. HPV exposure is incredibly common. It is something that is part and parcel of living in human communities. Our immune systems clear the virus efficiently enough so that most of us are never aware that we’re every exposed or infected.

    However, some individuals can’t clear the virus. If infected with the high-risk strains over a long period of time – especially with the two highest risk strains, HPV 16 and HPV 18 – pre-cancer type changes can develop which then eventually become cancer.

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  • 2. But even if cervical cancer is the most common female cancer in the world, it’s still way less common than breast cancer. Who’s really at risk?
    2 / 4 2. But even if cervical cancer is the most common female cancer in the world, it’s still way less common than breast cancer. Who’s really at risk?

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    Dr JN: The single most important risk factor for cervical cancer is chronic infection with a high-risk HPV strain. HPV strains 16 and 18 account for 70 per cent of all cervical cancer cases.

    These are other factors that increase a woman’s risk for cervical cancer:

    • Early age of first sexual intercourse
    • Multiple partners (risk increases as the number increases)
    • Partners with multiple partners
    • Smoking
    • Multiparity, or giving birth to many babies
    • Conditions where you immune system is suppressed or compromised, such as HIV/AIDS, poorly controlled diabetes and taking meds to suppress the immune system for organ transplant patients
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  • 3. If I’m a woman who gets an annual pelvic exam, or I still get the Pap test, I’m fine, right?
    3 / 4 3. If I’m a woman who gets an annual pelvic exam, or I still get the Pap test, I’m fine, right?

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    Dr JN: Women need to be clear about what is done for them during their regular visits to the gynecologist or family doctor.

    While a negative Pap test tells a woman that she likely does not have pre-cancer of the cervix at the time the test was done, the HPV DNA test addresses risk. A negative test tells a woman she has no detectable HPV infection with any of the high-risk HPV types. This means that her risk of having a cervical pre-cancer today and in the next five years is very, very close to 0 per cent.

    Continuing to use the Pap is like continuing to use a payphone instead of an iPhone. It can still do the job but there are better, more effective options available.

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  • 4. What if my insurance doesn’t pay for it? Or what if my doctor says I don’t need it? How and where can I get an HPV test in Singapore?
    4 / 4 4. What if my insurance doesn’t pay for it? Or what if my doctor says I don’t need it? How and where can I get an HPV test in Singapore?

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    Dr JN: Most insurance will cover the HPV test. The cost of the test will vary from provider to provider. Check with your insurer and care provider. Most doctors will offer HPV testing. That said, testing women below the age of 30 or 25 is of little value in preventing cervical cancer.

    Remember to ask your doctor what kind of test his or her lab partner uses. Make sure that it is an HPV DNA test that specifically identifies 16, 18 and at least 12 other high-risk strains.

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