Bette Cockrell and Dr. Jay Staub

"If I hadn’t had the HPV test, I would have continued to have normal Pap smears, probably. I would not have known that I had the virus that causes cancer – until it was too late."

- Bette Cockrell

Play Video

Read Dr. Staub's Perspective

As a practicing Ob/Gyn, I regularly speak with and examine women for a variety of ailments. And yet, I am still surprised daily. Based on her history, my patient Bette Cockrell – a longtime patient with 12 years of normal Pap tests and a healthy lifestyle – appeared to be at low risk for cervical cancer. However, the HPV test gave us an entirely different picture.

Bette Cockrell's Story

I love ballet. It’s one of the things I do to keep healthy, along with walking in the woods behind my house and eating right. I would dance all day long if I could – it makes me feel like I’m flying! But when I was diagnosed with cervical cancer last year – after more than 10 years of normal Pap tests – I wasn’t sure if I’d ever dance again.

My gynecologist, Dr. Staub, started using the HPV test with the Pap in 2005. When I went in for my visit – like I do every year – he explained that he would be giving me both tests. I didn’t think much about it at the time, other than why would I have HPV since I’ve been married for so long?! When the results came back, I had tested positive for HPV, but my Pap was normal.

Dr. Staub explained that HPV can stay "dormant" in your body for a long time without causing any problems, and that the results weren’t necessarily anything to be concerned about. He also asked me to come back several months later for another round of tests.

The results of my second Pap and HPV test were the same – HPV positive with a normal Pap. Since my results didn’t change – meaning I had a persistent high-risk type of HPV in my body – my doctor did a colposcopy, which found abnormal cells that had to be biopsied.

When Dr. Staub called with the results of the biopsy, he told me I had cervical cancer. I was shocked and extremely upset! I really thought it was the end of the world. But, it was caught very early thanks to the HPV test. Although I did have to have a hysterectomy, I did not need chemotherapy or radiation and all the devastating effects those treatments can bring.

I am so grateful to Dr. Staub for adopting the HPV test into his practice. Without it, I’m not sure if I’d be here today. But I am – and I hope that by sharing my story all women over 30 will go to their annual gynecologist visit and ask their doctors for the HPV test, because knowing your cervical cancer risk could save your life.