Dr. McGee explains why the BC Cancer agency has changed their testing guidelines and how the doctors at Integrated Health Clinic have put your cervical health first!
The medical community views cervical cancer as a preventable cancer because PAP testing can detect abnormal cell changes in the cervix long before they become cancerous. HPV (Human Papiloma Virus) is the primary cause of cervical cancer. This is the because HPV is a virus which infects skin cells of the cervix; it causes the cells to change and become abnormal, which is called dysplasia.
HPV infections are very common in young women, under the age of 25, and frequently result in abnormal PAP testing results. Most HPV infections are cleared by the immune system, so no treatment is required in these young women. Since cervical cancer is relatively rare in this age group the BC Cancer agency has recommended to start PAP testing (cervical swabs) at the age of 25. This new recommendation will limit harm and worry from abnormal tests and help to avoid un-necessary treatment. The BC Cancer agency is also recommending PAP testing every 3 years (previously it was every 2 years).
A PAP test will tell us there are cervical abnormalities (dysplasia), but what about the HPV, isn’t this the cause of the cervical changes? Doesn’t that need to be taken care of? Yes! 90% of women under the age of 25 will clear an HPV on their own; but 10% of these young women will not; which can lead to cell changes and eventual cancer later in life.
The doctors at the Integrative Health Clinic work to put your cervical health first. Starting at age 30, HPV testing can be included with your PAP testing. This will determine if you fall into the 10% category of women who don’t clear an HPV infection. HPV testing can be used in combination with PAP testing to improve the effectiveness of screening for cervical cancer. If your HPV screen and PAP testing are both negative then you can confidently follow the new guidelines laid out by the BC cancer agency. But if your HPV screen is positive, then you need to discuss with your doctor how you need to be monitored. A positive HPV screen changes your risk and you need to be screened with PAP testing more frequently. Talk to your doctor about adding HPV screening to your PAP’s.
Call Integrated Health Clinic at 604-888-8325 to learn more, or click here request an appointment online.
For additional information on PAP Testing, please refer to the BC Cancer Agency site. Click Here.
By. Dr. Karen McGee, ND