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Setting the HPV Record Straight

 


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You've probably seen Digene's new ad for their HPV test with the tagline, “take the test, not the risk. " I'm flabbergasted that this commercial hasn't been taken off the air, for it completely misrepresents what the test is meant for. The commercial clearly makes the implication that the life of Jodi, “whose story every woman should hear" was saved because her positive HPV test allowed her doctor to catch her disease before it became cancer. THIS IS COMPLETELY FALSE. A positive test is only useful if your pap smear is equivocal.

Otherwise, a negative test along with a normal pap smear can reassure you that your cervix is fine and doesn't need to be checked on again for three years (instead of the standard 1 year).

The reason they don't recommend the test for women under 30 is because around 60% of *** active women in the under 30 age range are positive for a high risk strain of the HPV virus anyway. We want those women to come back yearly for their paps regardless of what Digene says about their HPV status. Jodi's pap was normal, but she was HPV positive.

All this means is that she had a normal pap smear and an unnecessary test and would have to come back again the following year for another pap smear - which, apparently, “showed that she had cervical disease. " But, if she'd never taken the test, her doctor would have told her to come back in a year for another pap smear ANYWAY. Therefore, Jodi, “whose story every woman should hear" is exactly the person for whom the HPV test is of no value whatsoever!

Take home message = please help do your part to help in not contributing to the high cost of healthcare by not asking your doctor for an unnecessary test unless you are a) over 30 and b) are not engaged in any high risk behavior. Second take home message = please don't engage in any high risk behavior.

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