When To Be Screened for Cervical Cancer

New guidelines suggest women don’t get screened until age 21

The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force and the American Cancer Society recently released new guidelines on cervical cancer screenings.

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The most surprising thing that came from the change? It is now suggested that women under 21 shouldn’t be tested. Elisa Ross, MD, gynecologist at Cleveland Clinic, says this is because of the test’s parameters, which used to be based on sexual activity.

“Cervical cancer, the thing we’re looking for, is so vanishingly rare in that population,” Ross says, referring to the 21-and-under crowd.

The guidelines call for all women to start screening at age 21, while women aged 21 to 30 should get a Pap test every three years. For women 30 and over, Pap tests should still be administered every three years.

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However, the preferred method for prevention for a wide range of diseases is to combine the Pap test with HPV testing every three to five years for women 30 and older. But, Ross cautions, the new guidelines don’t apply to a woman’s annual exam, just the Pap smears.

“We really want them to come every year to talk to their doctor about all kinds of health issues,” Ross says.

Screening is not recommended for women 65 or older, and especially for those who have had three consecutive normal Pap tests and no abnormal results in the past 10 years.

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