Screening tests are an essential tool in detecting diseases in their early stages when no symptoms are present. The primary objective of HPV screening is to detect precancerous cell changes at an early stage before they develop into cancer. Consequently, the treatment can become more effective.
FDA-Approved Screening Tests for Cervical Cancer
Today, cervical cancer is the only cancer associated with HPV that has FDA-approved tests. Therefore, cervical cancer screening plays a crucial role in routine health care for people who have a cervix, including women and transgender men.
The screening tests for cervical cancer include the HPV test, which detects high-risk HPV in cervical cells, as well as the Pap test, which checks for cervical cell changes caused by high-risk HPV. Finally, the HPV/Pap co-test detects both high-risk HPV and cervical cell changes.
Recurring HPV Infection
There are cases where an HPV infection can become active again after several years. Thus, it’s crucial to have regular screenings, even if an individual has had negative results in the past.
Screening for HPV-Related Cancers Beyond Cervical Cancer
Presently, we do not have any tests to detect HPV infections or cellular changes related to HPV in vulvar, vaginal, penile, or oropharyngeal tissues. However, there are ongoing research studies to identify screening tests that can detect precancerous cell changes or cancer in these areas.
Screening for Anal Cancer
For populations at higher risk of anal HPV infections, such as people living with HIV or men who have sex with men, anal Pap tests can be effective in detecting early cell changes and precancerous cells. In one clinical trial, researchers concluded that addressing precancerous anal lesions reduced the risk of developing anal cancer by more than half in people living with HIV.
Screening for Oral Cancer
There are no standard screening tests for oral cancer. The United States Preventive Services Task Force has found that the current evidence is inadequate to evaluate the benefits and harms of screening for oral cancer in asymptomatic adults.
Nonetheless, dentists routinely check for signs of oral and oropharyngeal cancer during regular dental check-ups.