Dr. Oz Alerts Viewers about the Lesser-Known Facts of HPV and Pap Smear Testing

2012-10-20 14:12

On a recent episode of The Dr. Oz Show, Dr. Oz introduces special guests Jennifer Ashton, MD - a board certified gynecologist; and, Dianne Harper, MD, MPH--an HPV expert, for a show about the lesser-known facts of HPV and Pap smear tests that every woman needs to know.

Dr. Oz opens the show with a testimony by a woman named Michelle in her mid-30’s who decided it was time to have a baby with her husband of five years. She told viewers that she had taken a Pap smear regularly for years and that all test results showed no abnormalities. However, during a physical exam before becoming pregnant, her physician gave her an HPV (human papilloma virus) test and told her that she tested positive and was at risk of developing cervical cancer.

As it turns out, Michelle’s story is one shared by many women—an unexpected diagnosis of HPV infection.

“How could so many women like Michelle have normal Pap smears, but yet still have the HPV virus in there?” Dr. Oz asks Dr. Ashton.

“A Pap smear is an important test, and the Pap smear has saved lives from cervical cancer. Is a Pap smear a perfect test? Absolutely not,” says Dr. Jennifer Ashton. “Sometimes the cancer or pre-cancer is above the area that is swabbed by the Pap smear brush…it’s not perfect,” she said explaining that a Pap smear is typically done with a small-ended brush or spatula-like instrument that scrapes a small sample of cells from the outer surface of the cervix, but that it is not perfect for finding all abnormal cells.

When asked by Dr. Oz how do physicians reconcile the recent move toward fewer Pap smear exams in light of HPV and the risk of cervical cancer, Dr. Harper explains that it has to do with the length of time it takes for a pre-cancerous lesion due to HPV to develop into a cancer.

“What we know is that you have to have an HPV infection for a cervical cancer to develop. And the usual time frame for that cancer to develop is at least 3 to 5 years for it to become a cancer,” says Dr. Dianne Harper. “That is why if you screen every year, you are really over-screening. So, what we try to do is move that interval out to a longer interval that is safe, that tells us her risk of developing a pre-cancer lesion is still below 5 in 1,000, which is still a low risk of developing cervical cancer…so we can safely pull out that interval for a Pap test. And, if we add an HPV test to it, we can pull that interval out to 5 years before the risk jumps up a little higher.”


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I learned that I caught HPV 4 years ago. At first I was devastated but eventually I learned how to cope with it. As time passed, I learned that I had to accept my new life. I kept telling myself not to let this condition control my life. I am at the stage now, I am on hpvdatings.com for dating and support. No matter what, don't let any kind of thing put you through stress because whatever issue you may be having, it will pass. Think positive.
I neglected getting my pap smears regularly for 6 years following the birth of my second child. Once I finally did go back to the doctor (because I was having some symptoms unrelated to any female issues.) Over a few office visits she asked how long it had been since my last pap. I told her about seven years. She did one. She also did a cervical scraping. The results came back with full-on Cerival Adenocarcinoma. I had to immediately see a gynecological oncologist and have a coneostomy. I also had 3 precancerous poleps removed from my uterus. I now live getting rechecked for my cancer every 4 months. Cancer is an ugly monster that sits looking over your shoulder waiting to strike! I take my misfortune as an opportunity to remind and educate women of the importance of getting their annual paps. It could LITERALLY save your life!