Pap Smear and HPV DNA

What is a Pap Smear?

A pap smear is a form of cervical screening that detects abnormal cervical cells, which may develop into cancer if left untreated. Early detection and intervention can successfully help to slow down and prevent the cancer from manifesting. A pap smear can also identify other conditions like infections and inflammation. Women aged 21 onwards who are sexually active should go for a pap smear every 3 years. For women aged 30 to 65, it may be beneficial to get a pap smear and HPV DNA co-testing every 5 years to increase the effectiveness of the screening.

What is HPV DNA?

A HPV DNA test is another form of cervical screening that detects the presences of high-risk HPV types in the cervical cells. HPV is short for human papillomavirus, which is one of the most common sexually transmitted infection. The infection is usually harmless and can go away by itself but some HPV types can complicate matters and lead to cancers or genital warts.

HPV DNA testing helps to identify all 14 types of HPV strains and to single out the high-risk ones, which are HPV 16 and HPV 18. These can lead to infections which can causes mutation to the cells, resulting in cancer. By detecting the presence of high-risk HPV strains that are often associated to pre-cancer, early intervention can be implemented even before abnormal cells develop. Women who are at high-risk of developing cervical cancer should go for screening more frequently.

What are the benefits of Pap smear and HPV DNA co-testing?

  • Co-testing increases the chances of detecting cervical cancer at an early stage
  • Ability to detect squamous cell carcinoma, a common cancer which has a premalignant phase.
  • Ability to detect adenocarcinoma which is cancer of the glandular cells of the cervix. This is an aggressive cancer on the rise that typically affects younger women. It does not have a warning stage so early detection is essential.
  • For those with clean results, there is greater certainty that abnormalities would have little risk of developing over the next few years.