Starting at age 30, a Pap test in combination with the HPV test once every five years is the preferred method of screening. This type of ‘co-testing’ should be continued up until the age of 65. An option that is also acceptable is for women from 30 to 65 to be tested every three years using just a Pap test.
Those at high risk for cervical cancer due to some form of a deficient immune system or from being exposed to what is called ‘DES in utero’ might want to get screened more often. They are advised to follow the instructions of the health care team they are seeing.
Women who are over age 65 and have had regular screenings over the past ten years should probably discontinue cervical cancer screening. This is especially true if they’ve not detected any serious forms of pre-cancers like Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia (CIN2 or CIN3) over the past 20 years. Women who have a history of these, (CIN2 or CIN3), need to continue with their screenings at least for the next 20 years past the point where any abnormalities were found.
Any women who have undergone a total hysterectomy need to discontinue their screening unless it was done as an effort to treat cervical pre-cancer. If they had their hysterectomy and didn’t have their cervix removed, they need to continue with the cervical cancer screening and follow the guidelines laid out above.
No women, regardless of age, should be screened every year no matter what method we are talking about. If they’ve vaccinated against HPV, they still need to follow these same guidelines above. Many women think they can discontinue their cervical cancer screening after they stop having children, but that is not true. Screenings should continue and be done according to American Cancer Society guidelines.
While it is not advisable to get screened every year, women with abnormal results might need to get a follow-up Pap smear and also an HPV test, and do it once every six months or yearly.
The ACS guideline to help the early detection of cervical cancer doesn’t apply to those women with a diagnosis of cervical pre-cancer, cervical cancer, or HIV. These women need to have follow-up tests and cervical cancer screenings according to the recommendations of their health care team.