October 24, 2012 — Most women should be screened for cervical cancer every three to five years, depending on their age and the type of test they receive, according to guidelines issued on Monday by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the AP/Richmond Times-Dispatch reports (AP/Richmond Times-Dispatch, 10/23).
The recommendations align with guidelines released earlier this year by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and a group of medical organizations. Previous ACOG guidelines advised that women ages 21 through 29 receive a Pap test every two years and that women ages 30 through 65 should have one every three years (Norton, Reuters, 10/22).
Details of Recommendations
ACOG said that healthy women ages 21 through 29 should receive a Pap test every three years. Women ages 30 through 65 should receive a Pap test and be screened for the human papillomavirus, and they can wait five years between tests if results are normal.
The group advised against routine HPV testing for women in their 20s because the virus is common in young women and they usually clear the infection on their own. The guidelines also noted that screening should not begin before age 21 and that women older than age 65 can end screening if previous testing was normal (AP/Richmond Times-Dispatch, 10/23).
David Chelmow, lead developer of the ACOG guidelines and head of obstetrics and gynecology at Virginia Commonwealth University, said women who have been vaccinated against HPV should continue to receive cervical cancer screenings. The vaccine protects against HPV strains that cause most, but not all, cervical cancers (Reuters, 10/22).
Debra Ness, publisher & president, National Partnership
Andrea Friedman, associate editor & director of reproductive health programs, National Partnership
Marya Torrez, associate editor & senior reproductive health policy counsel, National Partnership
Melissa Safford, associate editor & policy advocate for reproductive health, National Partnership
Perry Sacks, assistant editor & health program associate, National Partnership
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