Melanoma: Five Things You Need to Know

Stephen Hodi, MD

Although skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, melanoma accounts for less than 2 percent of all skin cancer cases. The disease, which will be diagnosed in around 76,000 Americans in 2014, is the most aggressive form of skin cancer. Melanoma begins in the melanocytes, which are found on the lower part of the epidermis. The disease can occur anywhere on the body and usually begins in a mole. “It is important that people protect themselves from the sun and make themselves aware of the signs and symptoms of melanoma to greatly reduce their risk of …

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DNA Test May Offer Alternative to Pap Smear

A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) panel has recommended that a DNA test should be the primary screening tool for cervical cancer, rather than the traditional Pap smear. The DNA test detects the DNA of human papillomavirus (HPV), the sexually transmitted infection that causes almost all cases of cervical cancer. “This is an important step forward for cervical cancer screening,” says Alexi Wright, MD, MPH, a medical oncologist in the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber. Specifically, the DNA test screens for HPV-16 and HPV-18, the two highest-risk HPV strains, as well as 12 other high-risk HPV …

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Cervical Cancer Screenings: Five Things You Need to Know

Approximately 10,000-11,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year. But with women having regular cervical cancer screenings, incidence and death rates from the disease have decreased by at least 80 percent in the U.S. “Cervical cancer in the U.S. has become less of a frequently diagnosed cancer because of the institution of the Pap smear,” says Ursula Matulonis, MD, medical director of Gynecologic Oncology at the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber. As January marks Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, here are five important questions about cervical cancer screening:

When Should My Daughter Get Her First Pap Test?

By Sarah Feldman, MD, MPH Healthy young women should get their first Pap test at age 21. If that test is normal, they should have additional Pap tests every three years. If they have symptoms such as abnormal bleeding or are found to have an abnormality on their cervix during an exam, they may need a diagnostic Pap for cervical cancer earlier. Immunosuppressed women should start Pap testing with the onset of sexual activity, then repeat annually.

Should Boys and Girls Be Vaccinated Against HPV?

By Robert Haddad, MD Human papillomavirus, or HPV, vaccinations were originally advised only for girls. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American College of Pediatrics now recommend that both girls and boys be vaccinated. The recommendations are well founded: HPV infection is the number one cause of oropharyngeal cancer, which occurs in the middle part of the throat and is diagnosed in about 14,000 Americans each year. Men are three times more likely than women to develop oropharyngeal cancers linked to HPV.