What you Need to Know about Screening for Cervical Cancer

iStock_000001840964XSmallOne of the primary ways to prevent cervical cancer is by having regular screenings to improve the chances of early detection. But how often do you need to be screened and at what age?

Our clinic follows The American Cancer Society, U.S. Preventative Task Force, and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists which recommends a cervical cancer screening (or pap smear) at the age of 21, regardless of sexual activity.

  • Women ages 21-29: Pap smear should be done every 3 years. This exam screens for abnormal cervical cells.
  • Women ages 30-65: Pap smear should be completed every 3 years but co-testing with HPV (human papilloma virus) should be completed once every 5 years.
  • Women over the age of 65: Screenings may stop with an adequate screening history, which includes 3 normal pap smears without a history of hysterectomy due to abnormal pap smear.

You can read more on cervical cancer screening guidelines on the Center for Disease Control website.

HPV Screening:

HPV (human papilloma virus) is very common in women under the age of 30. It is not useful to test women under the age of 30 for HPV because most HPV that is found will never cause long term health risks and your body will fight off the HPV within a few years.

Not all types of HPV can lead to cervical cancer. There are two different types of HPV, one type that places you at a higher risk for developing abnormal cervical cells and a low risk type which can cause other symptoms such as genital warts.

  • Women under the age of 30: HPV co-testing should not be completed.
  • Women ages 30-65: HPV is less common in women over the age of 30 who are at an increased risk for cervical cancer. HPV is also more likely to signal a health problem for these women, who may have had the virus for many years.

You can read more on HPV screening guidelines on the Center for Disease Control website at http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/hpv/

*Please keep in mind, guidelines are generalized to a large population and may be applied differently to an individual based on a variety of factors. Talk to your provider about what screening methods and recommendations apply to you.


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