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HPV Test Effective In Preventing Cancer

April 1, 2009, 5:00 PM by Kelli Grant

HPV Test Effective In Preventing Cancer
The findings could change the way doctors around the world test for the disease.

Here in the U.S., about 4,000 women die each year from cervical cancer. But worldwide, it kills more than a quarter million a year.  Testing for the Human Papilloma Virus, also known as HPV, could change that.

Jodi McKinney is back on her feet after a simple test helped her beat cervical cancer.

“When they first told me that I had cancer cells, I was devastated," McKinney said.

The 43-year-old found out when her doctor ran a test for the HPV virus along with her pap smear. The pap was negative, but the HPV test was positive, which allowed doctors to diagnose the cancer at an earlier stage.

"I was able to avoid having the hysterectomy, the chemo, the radiation," McKinney said.

The HPV virus causes nearly 90 percent of cervical cancers. And a new study says that routine HPV testing for women over 30 could save millions of lives.

"The Pap Smear is not as sensitive as the HPV and so there are a lot of women who might be negative on the Pap smear and then turn out to actually have cervical cancer," General Practitioner Dr. Steven Lamm said.

The study of 130,000 women was done in India, and partly funded by the maker of the HPV test.  The results are so clear, the National Cancer Institute says HPV testing should eventually replace pap smears as the best early detection method.

"This will be the new standard," said Lamm.

Gynecologists are now being urged to make HPV testing part of the annual exam.

"If your doctor doesn't offer, doesn't offer it to you, please ask for it. Insist on it," said McKinney.

Locally, Avera McKennan says HPV testing depends on the physician; some do them routinely, others don't.  Testing at Sanford is not automatically done, but you and your physician can request it.

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