Cervical Cancer-HPV
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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common cause of cervical cancer, yet a recent survey shows that 76% of women in the US have never heard of the sexually transmitted virus, according to an educational campaign launched on Tuesday by the American Medical Women's Association (AMWA) and the National Cervical Cancer Public Education Campaign. The educational program was announced in Washington, DC, at the first National Summit on Cervical Cancer.
"Awareness and early detection are powerful tools in preventing cervical cancer,'' said Dr. Sharyn Lenhart, immediate past president of AMWA, an organization of women physicians and medical students. "No woman should die of this preventable disease.''
The introduction of the Pap test more than 40 years ago has substantially reduced the number of deaths due to cervical cancer, but 15,000 women in the US are still diagnosed with the disease every year, and 5,000 die of it.
Only in recent years has the importance of HPV been recognized. The virus can cause genital warts or no symptoms at all, and may infect as many as 80% of sexually active women at some point in their lives. Most women who are infected with HPV do not develop cancer, but certain strains of HPV are more hazardous than others.
A recent study found that 93% of women who developed invasive cervical cancer were infected with "riskier'' strains of virus.
While Pap tests can detect precancerous cells in the cervix, there are other tests now available that can be used in conjunction with Pap tests to determine if a woman is infected with HPV, and if so, what strain of the virus.
The goal of the education campaign is to raise awareness of the connection between cervical cancer and HPV, said Dr. Diane Dell in an interview with Reuters Health.
"Most people when they think of cancer think of family history,'' said Dell, a member of the AMWA and a visiting scholar at the University of Toronto in Canada. "No one really sees cancer as preventable.''
Women should make sure they have the proper screening to help prevent cervical cancer, according to Dell. This includes regular Pap tests, and perhaps tests for HPV.
The Summit was sponsored in part by Digene Corporation, which manufactures HPV tests, and 3M Pharmaceuticals.