In a study that was recently reported in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, one of the findings analyzed the fact that many doctors are testing the wrong women or using the wrong tests for viruses that cause cervical cancer.
The study found that 60 percent of doctors are using routine pap smears plus HPV screening in women who are either too young or in a very low risk category for this type of test.
Not only is this practice adding extra unnecessary costs to a woman’s routine exam, but to me, the more important issue is that when you have a young woman, let’s say in her 20s, who tests positive for HPV but with a strain of the virus that has not been linked to cervical cancer, in many cases, she will undergo unnecessary testing.
These tests may only amount to repeated pap smears, but in more serious cases, the doctor may order other procedures such as biopsies, cryosurgery or laser surgery, which can weaken the cervix and increase the likelihood that future pregnancies will be high risk.
I have seen in my practice many times when women who have had completely unnecessary surgical procedures end up with conditions like a very short cervix during pregnancy or, worse yet, cervical incompetence.
Both of these conditions, among others, could lead to premature labor or even loss of pregnancy.
What people may not know is that premature labor and fetal loss are still challenging medical conditions that we have very little success in treating.
So ladies, please be careful in choosing right doctors who will provide the right care. Question your doctors – make sure the treatment you’re getting is both sufficient and necessary.
Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's senior managing health editor. He also serves as chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. For more information on Dr. Manny's work, visit AskDrManny.com.