[Leslie Carol Botha Waiting to have a pap smear until the age of 21 is absurd - especially with the number of adolescent girls having unprotected sex. There has been an alarming rise in STD's including AIDS amongst this age group. It almost seems that ASCP is opening the doors for more vaccines for STD's. Girls who have had the Gardasil HPV vaccine must have a pap smear since their has been an alarming increase in cervical dysplasia and cervical cancer amongst girls who have had the vaccine. ]
To Pap or Not to Pap: What the New Cervical Cancer Screening Guidelines Mean for Women
ASCP – New Cervical Cancer Screening Guidelines Now Available at http://ajcp.ascpjournals.org/.
Chicago – The advice used to be simple, if not necessarily what women wanted to hear: A Pap smear every year. New cervical cancer screening guidelines released today are more detailed and precise, and may seem like the latest in a series of ever-changing and possibly confusing health care recommendations. The American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) – a coauthor of the new guidelines and the association of pathologist physicians and medical laboratory professionals who interpret the Pap and human papillomavirus (HPV) test results – is cutting through the clutter to tell women what they need to know about these familiar tests.
Overall the guidelines say that cervical cancer screening can begin later, be performed less often and stop earlier than previously recommended. But there are, of course, exceptions.
“When new screening guidelines are released, it can be difficult for women to know exactly what to do, especially when there are new types of tests, as well as vaccines now available,” said Mark H. Stoler, MD, FASCP, past president of the ASCP and professor of pathology, cytology and gynecology at the University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville. “As the experts in laboratory medicine, ASCP is here to help clinicians and women make sense of the new screening recommendations.”
“The guidelines strike a balance between the benefits of the life-saving screening tests and the harms of over-testing, which can include unnecessary invasive procedures and worry,” Dr. Stoler said.
Following is what women need to know about the new guidelines and recommendations for cervical cancer screening:
- Not until age 21: Women shouldn’t get a Pap test until they’re 21 years old, even if they’ve been sexually active.
- Every three years: Women should have a Pap test once every three years from ages 21 to 29.
- After age 30: After 30, women should have a Pap test combined with testing for HPV every five years. HPV is a virus that can cause cervical cancer. An acceptable alternative is to continue having a Pap test alone every three years.
- Over age 65: Women over 65 should stop getting cervical cancer screening tests altogether, as long as they’ve had at least three consecutive normal Pap tests or two negative HPV tests in the previous 10 years (the most recent in the previous five years), unless they have a history of pre-cancer. In that case, women should continue routine screening for 20 years.
- HPV vaccination isn’t a factor: Whether or not a woman has had the HPV vaccine, she should continue to follow the above recommendations because the vaccine does not protect against all HPV strains that can cause cervical cancer.
- After hysterectomy: If a woman has had a hysterectomy and the cervix was removed, she should not be screened at all, as long as there is no history of pre-cancer.
None of these screening recommendations applies if a woman has a history of cervical cancer, was exposed to the synthetic hormone DES when in the womb, or if her immune system is suppressed due to HIV or other conditions or medications.