Cervical cancer is caused by a persistent longstanding infection with high-risk strain of the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV infections are very common; the majority of people who have been sexually active with skin-to-skin genital contact have been infected. However, most HPV infections cause no symptoms and do not lead to cervical cancer.
Approximately 14 types of HPV infection are considered high-risk and can develop into cervical cancer. HPV 16 and 18 are responsible for 70 percent of cervical cancers
It is easy to reduce the risk of cervical cancer by using screening tests such as a Pap smear and HPV testing. The Pap test takes a sample of cervical cells to determine if any of those cells are abnormal. HPV testing can help determine if any of the high-risk strains of HPV are present, allowing for increased surveillance for cancer if they are. The HPV test detects DNA from 14 high-risk HPV types, including types 16 and 18. Using an HPV test alone for cervical cancer screening is an effective alternative to the current recommendation for screening with either cytology (the Pap test) alone or co-testing with cytology and HPV testing.
SGO strongly supports vaccination of both girls and boys against HPV to prevent HPV-related cancers. It is estimated that the seven high-risk HPV types found in the most recently approved nonavalent vaccine can potentially prevent over 90 percent of cervical cancers and a similarly high number of other HPV-associated cancers of the vulva, vagina, anus, penis, and some head and neck cancers.
SGO has produced a two-minute public service announcement (PSA) about the important role that the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine plays in preventing cancer.
- Medical Societies Recommend Consideration of Primary HPV Testing for Cervical Cancer Screening
- Use of primary high-risk human papillomavirus testing for cervical cancer screening: Interim clinical guidance
- HPV vaccination of girls and boys
- FDA approval of nonavalent HPV vaccine adds new tool to eradicate cervical cancer