New Cervical-Cancer Guidelines to Balance Risks 3/15/2012 7:02:13 AM
By Shirley S. Wang
When it comes to screening for cervical cancer, women don’t need to start getting pap smears until 21 years of age, and those between 30 and 65 should get a pap and HPV test only every five years, according to new consensus guidelines released by several cancer groups today.

Women over 65 don’t need screening at all, they say.

Previously the groups had recommended women start screening three years after having sex, even if younger than age 21, and that the 30-to-65 group receive pap tests every three years.

No woman needs an annual pap test for the purpose of cervical cancer screening, the same recommendation that has been made for 20 years or more, according to Debbie Saslow, director of breast and gynecologic cancer at the American Cancer Society and first author of the guidelines.

“If every medical group that [deals with cervical cancer] in the country is agreeing, then we’re hopeful we might actually see some change,” Saslow tells the Health Blog.

The groups, which included the American Cancer Society, American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology and American Society for Clinical Pathology, identified some 11,000 articles and based their recommendations on the number of cancers detected compared to the number of unnecessary procedures conducted.

The decision to stop recommending screening for women younger than 21 was due to the high number of unnecessary procedures for that age group, says Saslow. The strains of HPV virus that cause cervical cancer are quite common and usually go away without treatment. It is sustained infection that can become problematic and cause cancer, according to Saslow.

If a woman is unable or unwilling to get an HPV test, then she should continue to get a pap smear every three years, according to the guidelines.

The new guidelines also apply to girls who have received Gardasil, the HPV vaccine, because there isn’t enough evidence from medical records yet that their screening procedures should be any different, according to Saslow.

NTLasia Gobizkorea.com