Women often assume that pap smears are an all-in-one detector of the abnormal. However, recent studies have suggested that the pap smear may not be as thorough and accurate as we may think. Most women are unaware they have HPV until it becomes life threatening, causing thousands to die from a preventable disease. With the recent controversy over administering HPV vaccines to school-age girls, many parents and women visiting the doctor’s office are still confused about what they should be asking for.
According to the Centers for Disease Control , approximately 20 million people are currently infected with HPV, and 50 percent of sexually active men and women acquire HPV infections at some point in their lives. One woman, Jodi McKinney, was very surprised to find herself a part of this statistic. A mother of five children, Ms. McKinney took the pap and HPV test and received very different and surprising results.
In 2007, when Jodi visited her gynecologist for an annual exam, the receptionist handed her a pamphlet that explained that HPV was the cause of cervical cancer and now there is a test to detect it – the HPV test. Jodi had never heard of HPV or the HPV test until that day. When it was time to see the doctor, she explained that she would be giving Jodi the HPV test with the Pap, and Jodi was happy to take the extra precaution. It didn’t take any longer, and she didn’t have to do anything extra since it was just like her normal check-up. Jodi’s pap test was normal, but the HPV test showed she had the virus. After a second test at the doctor’s office her pap came back abnormal and the HPV test was still positive. The doctor later gave Jodi a colposcopy exam and a biopsy, which showed that she had pre-cancerous cells. The first thing Jodi thought of was her children, and she willed the treatment to work. Jodi was immediately scheduled for a LEEP procedure to remove all the bad cells and was very relieved when the surgery went well. After a few weeks she was back to her normal lifestyle. Now Jodi talks to all of her friends and family about getting their annual exams, pap smears and HPV tests.
“The pap is an old standby, but it may not be enough to protect you.”
In this Patient Power program, Dr. Marie Savard author, internist and one of the most trusted voices on women’s health, wellness and patient empowerment sheds light on the controversy behind the HPV test vs. the pap smear. In this crucial discussion, Andrew Schorr and Dr. Savard, talk about a number of topics, including: the importance of getting tested for HPV and having a pap smear; testing positive for HPV and getting treatment; who should get a colposcopy and LEEP procedure; and what tests women should be getting on a regular basis. Dr. Savard emphasizes the importance of every woman taking charge of her own health and being proactive in receiving routine check-ups.
“Doctors really have been creatures of habit. They have relied on the Pap test. That's what has always gotten women in the door for that annual checkup, and now suddenly we have a really better, smarter way to screen women for cervical cancer, and I think again it's just a matter of time. Doctors need to see the proof. They've seen good proof with the Pap test, and they want to see the proof of the HPV.”
Marie Savard, M.D.
Internationally-recognized Internal Medicine PhysicianMarie Savard, M.D. is an internationally-recognized internal medicine physician and is the author of three bestselling books. Dr. Savard earned a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing and a medical degree at the University of Pennsylvania and she is the former director of the Center for Women’s Health. Also, she is associate professor at the Medical College of Pennsylvania and... more >
Received PAP and HPV test with very different resultsAs a mother of five and wife of 18 years, Jodi was always on the go. Because of a history of cancer in her family, she made time for regular check-ups, including an annual gynecology appointment, no matter how busy she was. For 19 years now, Jodi always had her Pap test done, and it's always been fine and she... more >