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Which doctor is best for cervical cancer, male or female?

Harold Mandel's picture
Male doctor treating a female patient

All women share deep fears of getting cervical cancer. The best approaches to such a potentially devastating form of cancer are clearly prevention and early treatment. A healthy lifestyle with daily exercise and adherence to safe sexual practices along with good nutrition are advisable. Furthermore, recent research shows that there is a difference in the likelihood for screening low-risk women for cervical cancer between female and male doctors.

Most cervical cancers are caused by HPV

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention writes that just about all cervical cancers have been found to be caused by human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a common virus which can be passed from one person to another during sex. There are many types of HPV. HPV is very common with most people getting it at some time during their lives. There are usually no symptoms with HPV and so testing is important. Reporting on HPV testing, EmaxHealth reporter Tim Boyer reviews the thoughts of Dr. Oz dealing with the lesser-known facts of HPV and pap smear testing.

Other things which can increase your risk of cervical cancer include:

1: Smoking

2: Having HIV or another condition that makes it hard for your body to
fight off health problems

3: Using birth control pills for a long time (five or more years)

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4: Having given birth to three or more children.

5: Having several sexual partners.

The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine (JABFM) has published a study dealing with human papillomavirus (HPV) testing in low-risk women aged 30–65 years by family physicians. The objective of this study was to assess the ordering of human papillomavirus (HPV) testing for normal cervical cytology dealing with low-risk women aged 30 to 65 years. It was concluded HPV testing was not the same among different clinics and among different providers. The University of Michigan Health System has offered a good discussion of these findings which show that female doctors are twice as likely to perform screens of low-risk women for cervical cancer with an HPV test.

Female family physicians are twice as likely to order the HPV test

This study found that female family physicians are twice as likely to order the HPV test, along with pap smear screening for cervical cancer, for low-risk women who are aged 30-65 than male family physicians. It was also found that resident physicians and physicians doing fellowships were more likely to order the HPV test than faculty-level physicians who have been practicing for awhile. Pap smears have traditionally been the mainstay test for precancerous cells which may lead to cervical cancer. An HPV test can be used to check for the virus which causes the abnormal cancer cells to develop.

Regular cervical cancer screening is recommended

It is presently advised that cervical cancer screening with a pap smear be done every three years. An alternative suggestion is a pap smear and HPV testing together every five years for women who are aged 30-65. Due to considerations of cervical cancer as often being an infectious issue the concept of testing women with normal cells for HPV becomes more compelling. With more frequent HPV testing, care for cervical cancer can be improved. Sometimes HPV infection simply disappears on its own. However, when this infection does not go away it may lead to cell changes which can cause cervical cancer if not treated properly.
Reporting on the importance of checking for HPV, EmaxHealth reporter Robin Wulffson, MD
reviews recommendations for HPV testing for all women over 30.

Every well educated woman around seems to be sharing concerns about cervical cancer and how to prevent it. It is my professional opinion that we can view cervical cancer as a preventable cancer in women due to our understandings of the pathogenesis of this cancer. Findings that female physicians have been ordering more HPV tests for low-risk women implies male doctors should be encouraged to catch up to female doctors in dealing with this matter. In the meantime, an awareness of this situation at this time may compel more patients to seek gynecological care from female doctors.



Interesting that there is a disconnect between physician genders.