New cervical cancer screening recommendations do not include an annual Pap smear test

The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has released new recommendations on screening for cervical cancer and, for the first time, it does not include the annual Pap smear test.

The new guidelines & HPV testing

It is recommended that women aged 21 to 29 years be screened for cervical cancer every three years with the Pap test alone. This recommendation remains unchanged from 2012.

For women aged 30 to 65 years, the USPSTF recommends screening for cervical cancer with primary high-risk human papillomavirus (hrHPV) test alone every five years.

As an option, they also recommend the previous guideline of hrHPV test and Pap test together (co-testing) every three years.

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The 2012 USPSTF recommended that women aged 30 to 65 years were given the option for the first time to be screened with hrHPV test and Pap test together every five years, to lengthen their screening interval.

The 2018 recommendations go one step further by including, for the first time, the option of hrHPV testing alone, without a Pap test, every five years.

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What’s the difference between a Pap smear and HPV test?

Pap smear tests detect changes in cervical cells that could indicate the presence of pre-cancer or cancer, while HPV tests detect the genetic material or DNA of the high-risk types in cervical samples.

“The current guidelines preserve the greatest range of choices for practitioners and patients; in the sense that both will benefit. More efficient cervical cancer screening every three to five years will liberate time at the annual visit to discuss prevention of other cancers and chronic diseases that disproportionately burden women,” says a leading obstetrician/gynaecologist Lee A. Learman, M.D., Ph.D., from Florida Atlantic University’s Schmidt College of Medicine.

Because most high-risk HPV infections among healthy individuals clear up spontaneously without intervention, over the years, screening and clinical management recommendations have become more conservative in general and for young women in particular.

Nearly all cases of cervical cancer are caused by infection with oncogenic, or high-risk, types of HPV. Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women worldwide.

Source: Florida Atlantic University via www.sciencedaily.com

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