Wednesday, March 26, 2014

FDA to Decide on Continued Use of Pap Test

I ran across this a few days ago and thought I would share it here.

While the Pap test is obviously not something dental, the testing and identifying of cancers in the female reproductive tract has a high degree of similarity with identifying cancers in the oral cavity.  In fact the Human Papilloma Virus 16 has been indicated as a causative agent in both cervical as well as oral pharyngeal cancers.

Since it was created by George Papanicolaou in the 1930s, the Pap test has been considered pretty much the gold standard for identifying cervical cancers.

However, over the past several years data has begun to accumulate that shows that HPV tests are actually better at finding cervical cancers than the Pap test. The interesting part of this is that while current data accumulated over the past 10 years shows that the HPV test is more accurate, current FDA regulations are such that an HPV test can only be used along with a Pap test.

As this data has become more well-known, the FDA has begun to look at things a little bit differently. In early March 2014 an FDA advisory panel voted unanimously to approve a HPV test as the 1st standalone cervical cancer screening test not requiring a Pap test as well. While this does not indicate a wholesale change by the FDA, the FDA very frequently takes these recommendations into account and changes policy.

 So what does this have to do with dentistry? The same virus indicated in cervical cancers has also been indicated by researchers as a causative agent of oral pharyngeal cancers that dentists, oral surgeons, and ENTs deal with. Current scientific thinking is a link between oral sex and the virus that causes cervical cancer.

 As someone who is pretty passionate about doing everything we can to detect oral pharyngeal cancers at their earliest stages, this topic is a major blip on my radar. Cancer of the mouth and throat can be not only life-threatening that terribly disfiguring to those that it affects. As more information becomes available on this topic rest assured I'll be covering it here.

 The full article is a great read and is available at WebMD.   If you have any interest in the subject at all deftly make sure you read this article.  

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