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USF takes part in nationwide study on HPV

With the help of Student Health Services, USF women can now contribute their experiences to help better understand the emotional impact of reproductive system diseases.

The USF College of Public Health, under Community and Family Health, has teamed up with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study the emotional effects of Human Papillomavirus diagnoses in women.

According to the American Social Health Association, HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease, with 80 percent of sexually active women contracting it at some point in their lives.

HPV is the same virus that causes genital warts, and in some cases can lead to abnormal cellular changes on the cervix and cervical cancer.

Holly Rayko, coordinator of Health Education at SHS, said participating in this study will allow women to learn more about their reproductive health care, Pap tests, HPV and genital warts. It could also teach them how to prevent cervical cancer in the future for themselves, their friends, families and children. Overall, the study will give women access to better treatment options.

Volunteers in the study will also have the opportunity to take advantage of a new type of Pap test called a ThinPrep.

A ThinPrep Pap test is performed the same as a traditional Pap smear. The added differences and benefits come from its accuracy and convenience.

According to the Cytyc Corporation, a designer of medical devices focused on women’s health, cells collected from the cervix are suspended in liquid. This allows them to be examined as one layer of cells, rather than cells upon cells, as with the traditional Pap smear. Being able to look at each cell individually makes ThinPrep more accurate.

The other benefit of ThinPrep is the convenience of not having to do a follow up Pap smear. When the Pap test results come back abnormal with the traditional test, women had to have another Pap smear to check the abnormal results; the traditional test could only be used once. ThinPrep Pap tests can be reused if the first results are not normal.

Rayko said women coming into SHS for their annual exam, Pap smear or follow up Pap smears are asked to volunteer in the study. Women agreeing to participate are required to sign a consent form.

If the results do come back HPV-positive, then the woman has the option of completing a survey about her reaction to the diagnosis, Rayko said.

Rayko said once the study ends and all the data has been collected, the results will greatly assist health care providers in understanding women’s attitudes and outlooks on an HPV diagnosis.

“It will provide firsthand knowledge on what we can learn from women before, during and after the diagnosis,” Rayko said. “Health care providers will be able to take a proactive approach to women diagnosed with HPV rather than a reactive approach.”

The study began about four years ago when Dr. Ellen Daley and Dr. Karen Perrin from the College of Public Health at USF approached SHS. They wanted to know if SHS would want to participate in a research study funded by the CDC.

SHS agreed, and in June 2001 it became a pilot site for initial recruiting.

After initial recruiting ended and the formal structure of the study was completed, SHS was not initially part of the research. The actual study began beyond USF.

“Since the study went so well at Student Health Services and we have a more diverse demographic at USF, we decided to enroll in the study,” Rayko said.

Now, SHS is one of five sites in the nation conducting this research. Other sites include Oklahoma State University in Oklahoma City, the University of South Carolina in Columbia, the University of Washington in Seattle and the University of California at Los Angeles.

The study is in the final months of recruiting, and during its three years it has been successful. Since January 2003, almost 1,300 women have agreed to participate, Rayko said.

Beginning only at Planned Parenthood in Sarasota, the study had to be expanded to Planned Parenthood of St. Petersburg and Tampa due to patients returning who had already participated, Rayko said.