The American Cancer Society has recommended these following guidelines for helping women detect cervical cancer in its early stages. These guideline also help to detect pre-cancers that can be treated early and keep cervical cancer from ever forming.
All women need to start their screening for cervical cancer when they reach age 21. Women from 21 to 29 years of age need to do a Pap smear once every three years. The HPV testing is not for this age group but can be used for a follow-up on a Pap test that came back abnormal.
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.
The Importance of Cervical Cancer Screening
Taking these screening tests are your best chance of finding cervical cancer in its early stages when you are more likely to have it treated successfully. Screenings also help to prevent most other cervical cancers by locating abnormal changes in the cervix cells (pre-cancer), enabling the doctors to treat them before turning into cervical cancer.
When cervical cancer is detected early, it’s one of the most treatable cancers and has a high success rate. In the U.S., the death rate from cervical cancer went down over the past 30 years by as much as 50%. This is believed to be because of the effectiveness of the Pap smear screening.
In spite of all the recognizable benefits to cervical cancer screening, there are many American women who are not taking advantage of it. Most of the time when cervical cancer is found it is in women who never had a Pap smear or at least have not had it done lately. Women who don’t have health insurance as well as those who only recently immigrated are much less likely to engage in timely screening.
Deaths from cervical cancer are much higher in populations across the globe that are not set up to give routine screening. Cervical cancer is among the major causes of deaths for women in many of the developing countries. Those women usually get diagnosed in the later stages of cancer as opposed to the early stages or pre-cancers.