The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recently released new guidelines for cervical cancer screening. The changes may make it easier for more women to keep on top of their health.
Sharon Wilczynski (Photo by Markie Ramirez)
Instead of getting a Pap smear every year, many women may be able to go three years — and sometimes up to five years — between cervical cancer screenings. The task force already had recommended that women ages 21 to 65 receive a Pap test every three years.
Here’s what’s changed: New guidelines say that women ages 30 to 65 can safely go five years between screenings — as long as they receive a test for the human papillomavirus, or HPV, in addition to the Pap test.
(Before changing your checkup schedule, make sure to talk to your doctor about the new guidelines.)
The new recommendations grew out of research that linked HPV to the development of cervical cancer. There are many strains of the virus, but two — HPV16 and HPV18 — are responsible for 70 percent of all cervical cancer cases.
City of Hope’s Sharon Wilczynski, M.D., Ph.D., chief of anatomic pathology, conducted extensive research into HPV that helped establish its link to cervical cancer.
She says that most women and men are infected by HPV at some point in their lives, but they clear the virus from the body relatively quickly. Some women, though, develop a persistent infection that, over time, can lead to cervical cancer.
HPV research led to the development of a way to test for infection and a vaccine — which in turn led to better ways for women to manage their health. With HPV also being linked to a rise in mouth and throat cancers, additional research may improve outcomes in all HPV-related cancers.
For more information about HPV and its link to cervical cancer, see our previous eHope Q&A online.