For women, cervical cancer screening is a very important part of maintaining overall health. In fact, cervical cancer screening can prevent cervical cancer by detecting precancerous cells and the most treatable early-stage cancers.
Dr. Pelumi Adedayo, MD, OB / GYN, Advent Health Medical Group at Curtis Parkway, said: “This is because the recommendations and guidelines have changed over the years.”
So how do these guidelines affect screening protocols?
To empower women about their health, here’s a summary of the American Cancer Society’s new cervical cancer screening guidelines and how they affect your prevention plan.
New screening guidelines
First, it is important to point out that these cervical cancer screening guidelines are aimed at women with average risk and the cervix. Women at high risk may have a more personalized screening schedule recommended by their doctor. In addition, these recommendations may not apply to women with a history of non-cancer-related hysterectomy.
In the new guidelines, two of the most important updates are the type of screening test and the age at which it begins. Instead of an annual Papanicolaou smear, it is now preferred to screen for cervical cancer every 3-5 years based on age group.
The American Cancer Society currently recommends a primary HPV test every 5 years. It is not widely used, but we recommend the following:
A combined HPV and Pap test every 5 years for women over the age of 30 or
A Papanicolaou test every three years for women aged 21 to 30 years.
Also, for those who have been vaccinated with HPV, it is still important to continue screening for cervical cancer as described above.
Another important call for new recommendations is for people over the age of 65. Currently, people in this age group who have had normal cervical cancer screening results for the past 10 years do not need further screening.
Why screening is important
Screening for cervical cancer is important because it identifies precancerous cells and provides an opportunity to remove them before they become cancerous. It also helps find cancer in the early stages of the most successful treatment.
According to the American Cancer Society, almost all cervical cancers are caused by some specific strain of HPV (human papillomavirus), so the new recommendation has moved from the Papanicolaou test to the primary HPV test.
While Papanicolaou smears look for precancerous cells in the cervix, primary HPV screening is excellent at identifying precancerous cells infected with the type of HPV that is most likely to cause cervical cancer.
Widespread HPV vaccination and cervical cancer screening are expected to eradicate cervical cancer in all women.
What to expect
The process is relatively the same whether you perform a primary HPV screening test or a Papanicolaou smear test.
In both tests, you will be asked to wear a gown and lie down on the test bench. The healthcare provider then uses a small tool to gently rub or brush the cervix to collect a small sample of the cells. This sample can be used for both Papanicolaou smear and primary HPV tests.
After the lab processes the test, the provider provides the results. The timing depends on the test you take and the lab used to process it.
Schedule today’s screening
“If any recommendations or guidelines change, we recommend that you consult with a female caregiver,” said Dr. Adedayo. “This is a great opportunity to talk about how the new guidelines will affect your personal cervical cancer screening plan.”
It is also a good opportunity to talk about other aspects of the overall health and prevention strategy.If you need help, you can find a reliable female care provider to guide your journey AdventHealthGordon.com/women..