New recommendations for cervical cancer screening for women were issued by the US Preventive Services Task Force and published online via JAMA network.
Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women worldwide. It disproportionately affects women of color, low-income women and those in countries with limited access to reproductive healthcare.
Furthermore, there have been 13,240 new cases of cervical cancer and 4,170 cervical cancer-related deaths projected to occur in 2018 within those populations.
Despite scary numbers, JAMA reports that rates of cancer have declined in the United States over the last half century. Most cervical cancer is caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV).
Exfoliative cytology, what we all know as the “pap test”, was introduced 75 years ago and has become the go-to for cervical cancer screening among women. In the years past, it was recommended that women between 30 and 65 years old receive a Pap smear every three years and HPV co-testing every five years.
Now the task force suggest women under 21 need not be tested. That is because cervical cancer is a slow, progressive disease and doesn’t show up until advanced stages. Testing during the younger years will only show that HPV is detected.
Women over 65 years old can forgo testing if they have had recent negative tests. However, it is recommended you still visit a health care provider on a regular basis.
There are many different strains of HPV. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), some strains of it cause cell changes in the cervix which can lead to cervical cancer over 10 to 15 years. There are other strains that cause genital warts.
An HPV vaccination was made available to adolescents to help combat the likelihood they contract it. However, due to it being a parent or guardian approved vaccine, the adoption of it by parents or guardians are not as high as doctors has hoped.
Currently only 43% of adolescents were up-to-date on the HPV vaccination compared to 88% being up-to-date on tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis vaccine.