Women infected with the papillomavirus have a higher risk of cervical cancer.
The HPV test has contributed to the progress of HPV infection diagnosis because it has allowed demonstration of how the virus and its variants, known as serotypes, spreads and has also highlighted the infections caused by strains with high oncogenic risk.
HPV is a DNA virus widely spread among the female population. In most cases it is not associated with symptoms and the infected person may not even have knowledge of it. Most often the virus gets eliminated from the body by the immune system. However, around 5 – 10 % of the infected people have a high risk of progression to cervical cancer.
HPV is the human papillomavirus, which is commonly sexually transmitted. There are more than 100 types of HPV. These are detected through HPV DNA tests, similar to vaginal swabs.
The test consists of taking a small number of cells from the neck of the uterus (uterine cervix) with the same method used for the Pap test.
Among these two tests, the HPV test has higher sensitivity than the Pap Test, as the HPV test is more effective in predicting the possibility of developing lesions that might progress into tumors. However, the HPV test is less specific than the Pap test for detecting fungal or bacterial infections. A group of researchers from the University of Edinburgh highlighted the importance of performing the HPV test when they discovered how the HPV test can provide information on the danger of a recurrence in patients with cervical cancer.
The test, in fact, detects fragments of DNA in the blood and offers the possibility to estimate how and to what extent the tumor will respond to the treatment.
Thus, for patients suffering from cervical cancer, there is a growing hope of monitoring the progress of the disease and eventually defeating it.
HPV tests are also strongly recommended as a preventive and screening function and when cervical cancer is present or has been treated as an indicator of response to treatments.
Antonio Giordano, M.D., Ph.D. is the Founder & Director of the Sbarro Health Research Organization at the College of Science and Technology, Temple University in Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.
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