What is Co-Testing for Cervical Cancer?
Screening for cervical cancer has changed and evolved, based on research findings. Our San Antonio OBGYNs not only want to tell women what they need to know about the current Pap smear recommendations, but also to help them understand co-testing for cervical cancer. Co-testing includes testing for the human papillomavirus, or HPV, and the Pap test.
The connection between human papillomavirus and cervical cancer
In years past, Pap tests, or Pap smears, were the only screening tool we had for cervical cancer. As research showed the connection between HPV and cervical cancer, physicians added the HPV test to their cervical cancer screening arsenal.
HPV is the virus that causes cervical cells to change. Most of the time, a woman’s body fights off HPV infections, but when it doesn’t, persistent HPV infections can cause changes in the cervical cells, which will lead to cancer if left untreated.
What is the difference between a Pap test and an HPV test?
Co-testing for cervical cancer is one of the options for cervical cancer screening. Both tests have a purpose in cancer detection, but they work differently.
- The Pap test, or Pap smear, detects abnormal or precancerous changes in the cells located in the cervix.
- Our San Antonio OBGYNs perform the HPV test to detect the presence of human papillomavirus, especially the two high-risk types, HPV 16 and HPV 18. Women with these two types of HPV make up 70% of all cervical cancer cases. If a patient has either of these types of HPV, our physicians have a better understanding of her risk of developing cervical cancer in the future. This knowledge helps them make a care and treatment plan.
Guidelines for co-testing for cervical cancer
So—what is co-testing? It simply means that a patient receives BOTH the Pap test and the HPV test. If this is the option that women ages 25 to 65 choose, they will come to our office for these tests every five years. Women can also opt to have a Pap test only every three years, or an HPV test only every five years. Women should talk with our physicians about which testing option is appropriate for them.
Our San Antonio OBGYNs recommend regular screening for cervical cancer
Whether women choose co-testing for cervical cancer or another screening option, the important thing is to practice prevention. Early detection is a vital part of fighting cervical cancer. Talk to our physicians at your annual wellness visit or schedule an appointment for cervical cancer screening.