…..Cervical cancer in the United States has been dramatically reduced over the past 30 years due to the widespread testing of cervical cells with the use of the Pap smear. The cervical screening program is constantly evolving as more studies mature the guidelines. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) in November of 2012 issued a new Practice Bulletin, which gives new guidelines to improve cervical cancer screening, based on the latest studies. This will be a short summary of these guidelines:
- The cervical cancer screening program begins at age 21 regardless of the onset of sexual activity.
- With women 30 to 65 years of age, cervical cancer screenings should not be performed as often as annually. Annual well woman exams are still recommended and extremely important!
- For women ages 21 to 29, Pap smears should be done every 3 years.
- For women ages 30 to 65, Pap smears should also be done every 3 years.
- Co-testing (Pap smears and HPV testing) should not be performed with women 21 to 29 years of age.
- Co-testing should occur every 5 years with women 30 to 65 years of age.
- With adequate screening history, cervical screening can be stopped after age 65.
- After a hysterectomy in which the cervix has been removed, screening can be stopped.
- Any woman who has received the HPV vaccine should be screened by the same guidelines.
…..As always, all of this information should be discussed with your health care provider who will establish an individual plan for you. Remember all recommendations may be modified based on the individual’s personal history.