Study: American women need more education about HPV
February 03 2004 12:00 AM ET
American women have wide gaps in knowledge about the human papillomavirus, which has been linked with virtually all cases of cervical cancer, including how the virus is transmitted, how it's treated, and its role in cancer development, Women's Health Weekly reports. These information gaps make it harder for women to understand and cope with an HPV diagnosis, according to the study by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health and Columbia University. The researchers conducted focus groups with ethnically diverse women to assess their knowledge of HPV and discovered that many women were unclear what a positive HPV test meant and what the difference was between a standard Pap test that looks for early signs of cervical cancer and an HPV test. Younger women were shown to be more concerned about the consequences of HPV as a sexually transmitted disease, while older women were concerned primarily with cancer risks. An editorial accompanying the study in the journal Cancer calls for "the collaboration of advocacy groups, of [patients], and providers, with journalists to enhance their understanding and subsequently, of the public's, so as to enhance decision-making as it relates to HPV infection prevention, screening, and treatment."