We have Answers
We understand that patients may feel overwhelmed by the amount of information available, so we like to keep it simple and answer some of the most frequently asked questions. If you have any additional questions, please complete the contact form on this page.
What is cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer is cancer of the cervix. The cervix is an organ in the birth canal found between the uterus and vagina.
Regular cervical cancer screening can help catch pre-cancerous tumors or lesions before they develop into cancer. Because women with early-stage cervical cancer usually donâ€™t show symptoms, itâ€™s important to be screened regularly.
What is HPV?
HPV is a virus that can be spread through sexual contact. There are more than 150 different types of HPV. Some of these strains can cause genital warts or cancer.
HPV is very common. In fact, about 85% of women will get HPV during their lifetime, but only a very small number of them will develop cervical cancer.Â Most of the time, a womanâ€™s immune system will clear the infection naturally within one to two years.
Cervical cancer screening has greatly reduced the number of women who get cervical cancer. Today, about 12,000 cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed in the US each year.
What is the role of HPV in cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer can take a long time to develop. The process starts when HPV infects the cervical cells. 90% of infections clear on their own without medical intervention, but infections that donâ€™t clear on their own may cause damage to the cellâ€™s DNA.
DNA damage occurs when the HPV DNA â€œintegratesâ€ or becomes part of the womanâ€™s cervical DNA. When DNA damage occurs, cells may grow out of control, causing a tumor or lesion. Some lesions will go away on their own or not progress, but others may become cervical cancer.
How is cervical cancer screening performed?
In the US, Pap smears and HPV tests are used to screen for cervical cancer.
Women who have abnormal Pap results or who test positive for high-risk HPV may be referred for follow-up testing. Follow-up testing for these women is usually done with a procedure called a colposcopy.
During a Pap smear, your doctor will collect cells from your cervix using a little spatula or brush. This procedure is usually very quick and painless. The sample is then sent to a lab where the cells will be looked at under a microscope.
Because infection with HPV is the cause of cervical cancer, HPV testing is often performed to help screen for it. Women who are infected with high-risk HPV strains are at higher risk for developing cervical cancer than women who are infected with lower-risk strains. HPV tests look for the most common, high-risk strains of HPV and help doctors determine whether a woman is at risk of developing more advanced cervical disease. HPV tests are performed using the same cells that were collected for the Pap smear.
If a Pap smear comes back as abnormal or unclear, and/or a woman tests positive for a high-risk HPV strain, her doctor may perform a procedure called a colposcopy.
During a colposcopy, the doctor looks at the cervix with a high-powered microscope. If the cells look abnormal, she will perform a biopsy. During a biopsy, some of the abnormal-looking cells are removed from the cervix so that they can be sent to a lab for further testing. Some women experience mild to moderate bleeding and/or cramping from this procedure.
What does an HPV-positive test result mean for me?
Not all HPV infections will cause DNA damage. In fact, most HPV infections will clear on their own within two years without medical intervention. Â FHACTÂ® can help identify women who are at risk of developing cervical cancer, which is unavailable from current HPV-DNA based testing.
What is FHACTÂ®?
FHACTÂ® stands for FISH-based Associated Cancer Test. FISH (or Fluorescence in situ Hybridization) is a methodology that allows the detection of targeted genomic aberrations.
FHACTÂ® is a non-invasive genetic test that looks for the DNA damage that causes cervical cancer. The FHACTÂ® test can help your doctor determine whether you are truly at risk of cervical cancer, and help you make decisions about future treatment.Â For women who donâ€™t have the DNA damage that causes cervical cancer, FHACTÂ® can help reduce unnecessary colposcopy procedures.
One of the great things about the FHACTÂ® test is that it can be performed on the same sample that was taken for the Pap and HPV testsâ€”so you donâ€™t have to return to your doctorâ€™s office for the test!
Why is it important to get the FHACTÂ® test?
Although HPV infections are the necessary cause cervical of cancer, HPV testing cannot tell you whether you will develop cervical cancer. In addition, HPV testing only evaluates the presence of some HPV strains, but there are many more strains that can lead to the irreversible DNA damage that causes cervical cancer. FHACTÂ® assesses this DNA damage and may therefore aid in identifying women with a higher risk of progression.
Is FHACTÂ® right for me?
If you’ve had an abnormal Pap result, or if you’ve tested positive for a high-risk HPV strain, your doctor may order FHACTÂ®.
The FHACTÂ® test can help doctors decide whether a colposcopy-guided biopsy is really necessary, or if you might benefit from a more conservative treatment plan.
How does FHACTÂ® work?
FHACTÂ® stands for FISH-based Associated Cancer Test. FISH (or Fluorescence In Situ Hybridization) is a technology that can be used to visualize specific sequences of DNA.
FHACTÂ® is performed using the same cells that are collected during routine women’s health exams for the Pap smear test. When FHACTÂ® is performed, colored probes recognize and attach to DNA sequences known to be involved in cervical cancer. When the cells are examined under a microscope, it is possible to see whether these DNA sequences have been altered or not.
What do my FHACTÂ® results mean?
If a FHACTÂ® test comes back positive, it means that DNA damage was found in the cervical cells. In this case, your doctor may recommend further testing.
If a FHACT test comes back negative, it means that DNA damage was not found. Women with negative FHACTÂ® results may not need a colposcopy at this time. Even if your FHACTÂ® test is normal, itâ€™s important to talk to your doctor about when you should return for regular screening.
Is FHACTÂ® reimbursed?
CGI has received a license from CLIA to perform FHACTÂ®. For any questions regarding coverage, please contact us at 888-334-4988.
Is FHACTÂ® only for cervical cancer?
The genomic rearrangements assessed by FHACTÂ® are biomarkers related to HPV infection. HPV is also involved in the development of head and neck cancers (including throat and mouth) as well as anogenital cancers.
How do I get more info?
We will be happy to assist you and answer any questions you may have. Please contact us at 888-334-4988. You can also attend one of our webinars or view our pre-recorded webinar.