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What You Need to Know About the New Cervical Cancer Screening Guidelines

August 22, 2018

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By Sara Bondell

New cervical cancer screening recommendations give women over 30 a new option when it comes to testing.

Because most cervical cancer is caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), women between the ages of 30 to 65 can opt to get an HPV test instead of a Pap smear. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force’s recommendations also say women can safely wait five years in between tests.

For women under 30, the Pap smear is still the best option and is recommended every three years.

Here are the guidelines:

  • Women under 21 usually do not need to be tested
  • Women ages 21-29 should get a Pap smear every three years
  • Women ages 30-65 can get an HPV test every five years, a Pap test every three years or a combination every five years
  • Women over 65 who have had recent negative tests can forgo testing if they wish

Women still need regular doctor visits to address any unrelated issues.

Chair, Gynecological Oncology

“The great thing is these guidelines give some leeway to patients, but they are also providing guidance in the role of HPV testing,” said Dr. Robert Wenham, chair of Moffitt’s Gynecological Oncology Program. “Hopefully, this will help us with detecting more pre-cancers and decreasing the burden on patients.”

According to the American Cancer Society, more than 13,000 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer in the United States this year.

Nearly 80 million Americans — one out of every four people — are infected with HPV. Of those millions, more than 31,000 will be diagnosed with an HPV-related cancer. Did you know there is a vaccine that can prevent certain types of the virus? Moffitt Cancer Center has joined top cancer centers across the country to urge for increased HPV vaccination and screening to eliminate HPV-related cancers, including cervical cancers.