cervical cancer

Gynecologists cheer FDA decision to expand HPV vaccine to older adults

Oct 9, 2018
Art Writ/Virginia Commonwealth University Capital News Service

Gynecologists hope the federal Food and Drug Administration's decision to approve human papillomavirus vaccine for older adults could protect more people. Missouri has one of the highest rates of cancer caused by the virus in the nation.

FDA officials previously recommended the Gardasil vaccine for those between ages 9 and 26. On Friday, the agency expanded the vaccine for those up to 45.

HPV is a skin virus that’s spread through sexual contact. There are many types of HPV and some eventually cause cancer in men and women, including cervical and throat cancer.

Pan American Health Organization/Flickr

For most women under 65, a visit to the gynecologist often includes an unpleasant necessity: a Pap smear to check for cervical cancer risk.

The test involves letting a doctor or nurse scrape cells from the back of the cervix, which are visually inspected for signs of abnormality.

At a booth at a health fair in Indianapolis, a 27 year-old African American woman named Sasha clicks through a computerized survey about cervical cancer.  “I’m here taking advantage of all the free health screenings they have today, just to find out things to take care of my body,” she says.

Cervical cancer, which still kills about 4,000 American women every year, is almost entirely preventable. Proper screening can catch early warning signs that could lead to cancer without the right treatment. But how often women should get screened and which tests should be used has been hotly debated by women, doctors and medical researchers for the past decade.

Two medical groups say doctors could replace the Pap smear with a different test to screen many women for cervical cancer.

But that recommendation, included in an "interim guidance" released Thursday, is highly controversial; other experts call it premature.

A drug that is used worldwide to treat malaria is now being tested as a treatment for cervical cancer. This surprising idea is the result of a new laboratory technique that could have far-reaching uses.

Our story starts with Dr. Richard Schlegel at Georgetown University Medical Center. He's best known for inventing the Gardasil vaccine to protect women from cervical cancer.


From the impact of the HPV vaccine on cervical cancer rates to a new 3-drug treatment for Hepatitis C, Sound Medicine's Jill Ditmire reports this week's Health News Headlines. 

A New Way To Screen For Cervical Cancer

Jun 9, 2014

In April, the FDA approved the use of a new human papillomavirus test for primary cervical cancer screening. Aaron Ermel, M.D., discusses the newly approved test, the reasons it should not be used in women under 25 and the impact this test will have on cervical cancer screenings in the future.