Most women should be screened for cervical cancer no more often than once every three to five years, according to new guidelines issued this week by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
In addition to extending the interval between Pap tests, combining those tests with a test for the human papillomavirus, or HPV, once every five years is preferred for women aged 30 and older, according to the guidelines.
The guidelines align with recommendations released earlier this year by the American Cancer Society, the American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology, and other medical groups.
Dr. David Chelmow, who led the development of the College’s guidelines, said: “It will take some time and a lot of effort to re-educate everyone that the annual Pap is no longer the standard of care. It is critical, however, that women understand that their annual well-woman visit is still very important for many other aspects of their health care.”
Widespread Pap screening has lowered the cervical cancer rate in the United States by more than 50 per cent during the past 30 years.
HPV vaccines have been introduced into schools in the Cayman Islands in this school year.
Cervical cancer is caused by certain strains of HPV, a common sexually transmitted infection.
The College continues to recommend that women younger than 21 should not be screened for cervical cancer (or HPV), regardless of whether they have had sexual intercourse. Although the prevalence of HPV is high among sexually active adolescents, invasive cervical cancer is very rare in women younger than 21.
Women aged 21 to 29 should receive cervical cancer screening once every three years instead of once every two years, according to the guidelines. Screening using either the conventional Pap or the liquid-based method is acceptable. Women younger than 30, however, should not be screened with co-testing.