Published on: June 12, 2006
The HPV Vaccine—Is It For Me?
Pathologists help explain who should receive the new vaccine
Northfield, IL—The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) recently announced its approval of a new vaccine to guard against the human papillomavirus. Also known as HPV, this group of viruses has been found to lead to cervical cancer, a life-threatening disease that is expected to strike nearly 10,000 women in America this year. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States, and is most common in adolescents and young adults. More than half of all sexually active men and women will acquire an HPV infection at some point in their lives.
While the development of the HPV vaccine is good news for the public, studies have found that the vaccine is most effective for those individuals who have not yet been sexually active. Pathologists, physicians who identify and diagnose cervical cancer, HPV and other diseases, recommend that women who have been sexually active continue to get regular Pap tests. In addition, for women 30 years of age and older, it is a appropriate that they also have an HPV test, as using both tests for women in this age group even further increases the chances for identifying precancerous changes. The Pap test is still the most effective tool to prevent or identify cervical cancer, but no test is perfect, and adding the HPV test for women 30 and older, further enhances their chances for prevention or early diagnosis.
Since the introduction of the Pap test after World War II, the death rate from cervical cancer has decreased by nearly 70 percent. Pathologists recommend that every woman have a regularly scheduled Pap test within three years of becoming sexually active or by age 21—whichever comes first.
The College of American Pathologists (CAP) provides a free Internet-based service, www.MyHealthTestReminder.org, to help remind women to schedule their regular Pap test. One quick visit to www.MyHealthTestReminder.org, allows a woman to select the day she would like to schedule her next Pap test. On the date she chooses, an e-mail will be sent reminding her to call her doctor or other health care provider to schedule an appointment. This bilingual, confidential Web site does not accept advertising; and none of the user-provided information is shared with outside parties.
The College of American Pathologists is a medical society serving nearly 16,000 physician members and the laboratory community throughout the world. It is the world’s largest association composed exclusively of pathologists and is widely considered the leader in laboratory quality assurance. The College is an advocate for high-quality and cost-effective medical care.