New Cervical Cancer Prevention Guidelines: What You Need To Know

New medical guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force say that women over 30 can safely wait five years between cervical cancer screenings.

These latest recommendations suggest that women be screened every five years with either HPV testing alone or Pap HPV co-testing. They may also choose to screen with a Pap test every three years. The guidelines were published on Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"A lot of women think that annual screening is the way to go, but we now know that that causes more harm than good. The main reason is that it leads to a lot of extra invasive procedures without increasing the numbers of cancers detected," Debbie Saslow, senior director for HPV-related and women's cancers at the American Cancer Society, said in a statement.

The new cervical cancer screening recommendations specify that women under age 30 should still get the Pap test every three years, starting at age 21. The guidelines say that screenings are no longer needed after age 65.

"I truly believe that including the HPV test, either along with the Pap or instead of the Pap, is superior than the Pap alone," Saslow told NPR.

There's some evidence the HPV test could more easily detect a less common form of cervical cancer, adenocarcinoma, she explained. "So wouldn't you rather find the two most common cancers instead of just the one most common type?"

The Pap test tells a woman if she has any abnormal cervical cells on the day of the test. On the other hand, the HPV test can identify the virus that causes virtually all cervical cancer, even if the woman has no abnormal cells.

Since the implementation of widespread cervical cancer screening, the number of deaths from cervical cancer in the U.S. have decreased and continue to fall, from 2.8 per 100,000 women in 2000 to 2.3 deaths per 100,000 women in 2015.

"Most cases of cervical cancer occur among women who have not been adequately screened," the USPSTF said in its recommendations.

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New medical guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force says that women over 30 can safely wait five years between cervical cancer screenings. BSIP/UIG via Getty Images