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HPV testing frequency needs to change

Category: Sexually Transmitted Diseases

There is a big problem in the United States when it comes to controlling sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and helping the public combat these in their daily lives. For women, certain kinds of cancer are even tied into these illnesses, making STD testing more vital for them to remain healthy over the long term. There are conflicting ideas, though, on how best to monitor for these issues.

More targeted testing options
The Journal of the National Cancer Institute reported that the American Cancer Society and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had released their annual joint report on national cancer-related statistics. The source reported that the overall rate is continuing to drop, but specific precursors to the disease, including human papillomavirus (HPV), require more pressing attention in order to combat what experts still see as an uncontained problem.

The source wrote that HPV vaccines have been administered to about one-third of women between the ages of 13 and 17 over the last 10 years, but many are still left without necessary protection. Research showed that deaths associated with HPV were on the rise, despite the overall decline in cancer mortality in the U.S. This is a sign to some clinicians that increased vaccinations and more thorough STD testing may be useful in preventing these numbers from continuing to climb. The increased awareness of HPV, its symptoms and treatment methods has resulted in more people receiving shots and practicing safer sex, but some still debate whether Pap smears, the test commonly used to detect the illness, are as useful as blood tests.

Changing face of STD testing
An article in The Canadian Medical Association Journal stated that, while these physical tests were once administered annually to women 25 and older, doctors are now advised that once every three years is actually sufficient. The group wrote that clinicians would often see lesions on womens' cervixes that could precipitate HPV manifestation during Pap smear tests, resulting intensive and damaging treatments that were not always necessary.

Many of these lesions, the source stated, often heal on their own without producing cancerous or infectious cells, so many women were rendered infertile over the years due to inappropriate medical procedures. While blood tests can still help shed light on the infection status of women in the over-25 age group, getting annual pap smears may actually be detrimental to overall health.

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