Cervical people may see changes on their next visit to the OB-GYN for new guidelines regarding cervical cancer screening. The purpose of these new regulations is to reduce stress and detect the virus that causes the most cervical cancer.
The updated Cervical Cancer screening requirements of the American Cancer Society suggest that people with a cervix undergo a human papillomavirus (HPV) primary test – instead of a Pap test – every five years, starting at age 25 and up to 65 years old. keeps on. More frequent Pap tests (every three years) are still considered acceptable testing for offices without the use of HPV primary testing. Previous ACS guidelines issued in 2012 suggested screening at age 21.
“Women can start (testing) later. They can do it less often,” Dr. Said Alexey Wright, director of gynecological oncology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, who was not involved in developing the updated recommendations. “The test is to detect the virus that causes cervical cancer and whether a woman has an infection or not. This allows us to better understand her risk for developing cervical cancer.”
Recommendations from the US Preventive Task Force and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) currently differ from the ACS guidelines. They encourage Pap testing every three years from age 21 to 29, then Pap test every five years and HPV primary test from 30 to 65, or Pap test only every three years.
In a statement shared with TODAY, ACOG said they look forward to reviewing the new ACS recommendations to determine if they should update their clinical guidance.
“In the interim, ACOG confirms our current cervical cancer screening guidelines, which encapsulate all three cervical cancer screening strategies (high-risk human papillomavirus testing alone, cervical cytology and co-testing alone),” Dr. Christopher M. Zahan wrote. President of practice activities at ACOG. “… current screening guidelines reflect the balance of benefits and potential harms and support shared decision-making between patients and their physicians.”
Both the Pap test and HPV test require cells collected from around the cervix, so the collection experience remains the same.
Pap tests detect changes in cervical cells and are somewhat unreliable. Wright said there is a 50-50 chance that they will miss an important change or incorrectly flag cells as abnormal. But the HPV primary test detects the virus, which is responsible for 99% of cervical cancer. If the tests are positive, doctors can better understand the patient’s risk of cancer.
Debbie Saslow, managing director of HPV and GYN Cancer with the American Cancer Society, told TODAY via email Cancer, “The update is based on decades of studies comparing the effectiveness of HPV testing against HP (Pap test).”
It provides relief to people as they expect less ambiguous and stressful Pap test results.
“Giving women more certainty with more accurate testing can be really helpful,” Wright said. “Too much anxiety – which is severe – can occur around tests that are seen as abnormal but may not actually be quite uncommon.”
During the first screening at 25 instead of 21, it may seem as if it may be at risk of cervical cancer to younger people, Saslo said, that is not true. Less than 1% of cervical cancers are detected at age 25.
“This number is decreasing thanks to HPV vaccination,” she said. “These cases have not decreased as a result of screening, and the numbers are similar in countries that subsequently begin screening. Screening at this age is not just beneficial.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the last 40 years, the rate of cervical cancer and deaths from it has decreased significantly. While screening has helped, the HPV vaccine has contributed to the decline. According to the CDC, when it comes to teenage girls, cancer and wart-causing HPV strains have declined by 86% and these infections are down 71% in young women. The latest estimates suggest that 60% of adolescent girls and 42% of adolescent boys have received one or more doses of the HPV vaccine. Wright urges parents to get their children vaccinated against cancer of the head, neck, cervix, penis and anus.
“It’s a vaccine designed to prevent cancer,” Wright said. “My hope is that by combining vaccination and screening and treatment in this country (HPV-causing cancers) will be eradicated.”
The story was updated on July 30, 2020 to include a commentary from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and current HPV vaccination rates.