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The HPV Test: when is it necessary?

Posted Sep 16 2010 3:16pm

On-line Radio Show: September 22, 2010 @1:30 pm EST – 2:00 pm EST (or 10:30 am PST – 11:00 am PST)

Two ways to connect with us:

1.  Dial in: 1-646-929-2625 to listen and talk! – or-

2.  Internet: Go here and sign up for an account to listen through your computer!

We’ve all had the PAP tests since we can remember – or at least starting at puberty when those god awful stirrups presented themselves in a sterile, hostile and authoritarian way.  I dreaded those yearly appointments that seemed to pop up all on the calendar more than I ever wanted.

But now we’re talking HPV and the reason is that it’s highly likely even YOU – yes, YOU – have been exposed to the virus.   In most women, you won’t even know its there unless your PAP smear comes back with some questions.   While a Pap smear cannot identify which type of HPV is present, regular Pap smears will make sure any changes that occur are identified early and managed effectively.

In a small number of women, the HPV stays in the cells of the cervix. When the infection is not cleared, there is an increased risk of developing abnormalities. In very rare cases, these abnormalities of the cervix can progress to cancer. When cervical cancer develops, HPV is found in almost all cases.  Having regular Pap smears is the best way to ensure that any changes are monitored and managed to protect your health.

If you have early cell changes due to HPV, there is a strong likelihood that these changes will clear up naturally in 8 to 14 months. Because of this, and the fact that cancer of the cervix takes around 10 years to develop, your doctor may recommend simply having another Pap smear in 12 months time.

Well, time flies for us in our 40’s and 50’s…so now that we’re getting into midlife those changes that may have occurred 10 years ago might wreak havoc on us in the form of cervical cancer – so, just sayin’ ladies.  Not a bad idea to understand that an HPV test at this point in our lives could mean that our healthcare professionals know which of the 100 strains of  HPV virus may be present.  Most don’t cause cancer but wouldn’t you want to know if you were at high-risk or not?

What’s interesting about this is that more knowledge is power.  Yes,  we all agree on that score.  But, many of us may “poo-poo” stuff in our lives cuz we’re just too busy taking care of teens or our parents.  But, don’t put off that test if your doctor advises or if you think you may have cervical cancer in your risk profile.

Just think about it this way:  sometimes the virus can lie dormant for decades. Testing negative for HPV only means that there is no superficially detectable virus at that time — you could still be harboring the virus.

I don’t know about you but if such an easy test were available and recommended for breast cancer detection at early stages, I’d jump on it!  (Come to think of it, this is why I have such a problem with not having a yearly mammogram after all these years of being told I needed to have it!  But, don’t get me started….)

Interested in this test and what it means for you?  I can’t wait to introduce you to  Dr. Barbara Levy on September 22nd (@ 1:30 pm EST or 10:30 am PST) who will help us tease this apart and help us discover what’s best for us and what we should  say to our doctors.

Dr. Levy has more than 20 years of experience as a women’s health care specialist. She opened her private gynecologic practice in Federal Way, WA, in 1993 after working for several years in Seattle. She is devoted to the art of healing, and provides sensitive, respectful health care to women of all ages. Dr. Levy stays up-to-date on the latest developments in her field, and is dedicated to working with her patients on preventive care and wellness.

She has discussed topics such as hysterectomy and other women’s health issues on noted television programs such as Oprah, the Discovery Health Channel, and local television shows. She has written more than 50 publications in her areas of specialty, and has contributed to many press articles about women’s health.

Please join Dr. Levy with Cassie and I on September 22nd at 1:30 pm PST or 10:30 am PST on the  Real Women on Health! on-line radio show and chat room (which we call the “health salon”).  If you don’t want to listen through your computer, but prefer to listen via phone – no problem.  Just dial 1-646-929-2625 and press #1 when you want to ask a question or say “hello”.

Hope to hear your voice!

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