In the United States the incidence of cervical cancer has decreased more
than 50% in the past 30 years because of widespread screening with the
Pap smear. Attributable deaths have undergone a similar decrease. The
discovery of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) as a necessary factor in cancer
of the cervix has resulted in the development of new screening technologies
and vaccines. Consequently, screening recommendations need to be updated.
TheAmerican College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists just released new cervical cancer screening guidelines. Highlights include
- Begin screening women at age 21
- Screen women 21-29 years old every 2 years
Screen women 30 and over every 3 years once they accumulate 3 consecutive
negative traditional Paps. Alternatively, consider addition of High Risk
HPV test. If both Pap & HPV negative then do not screen sooner than
3 years with this combination.
[This is what we do at Women’s Health Specialists]
- Stop cervical cancer screening at 65-70 years old and the woman has 3 consecutive
- Women who have undergone a total hysterectomy (removal of cervix) may discontinue
screening if they don’t have a history of high grade pre cancerous
growths or cervical cancer
High risk patients need screening annually:
- Previously treated high grade pre cancerous growths for at least 20 years
- Immunosuppressed patients & HIV
- Women whose mothers took DES (Diethylstilbestrol) while pregnant
Women often find it helpful to know that 80% of adults will be infected
with HPV during their lifetime and most will clear it within 8 to 24 months.
The combination of a negative PAP and High Risk HPV screen reassures us
better than 99% by excluding the presence of high grade pre cancerous
growths or cervical cancer. We hope this information helps clarify any
confusion resulting from recent media announcements. We look forward to
seeing you every year, not only keep you up-to-date on health screening
tests but also advances in women’s health care that may apply to you.