Pap smears might be used much less frequently thanks to new cervical cancer screening guidelines recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.
The new recommendations just published in JAMA state that doctors should rely on human papillomavirus or HPV testing instead of Pap smears to screen for the risk of cervical cancer. For women ages 30 to 65 the new guideline will be to administer either an HPV test alone every five years, a Pap smear alone every three years or a combination of both tests every five years.
Since HPV is the leading cause of cervical cancer cases, the HPV test should be effective in prevention. A recent study found that it could actually be better at cervical cancer detection than traditional Pap smears. Doctors and their patients will decide on a case-by-case basis which method of testing will be best.
According to the new recommendations, women ages 21 to 29 should continue to receive Pap smears every three years. Those over 65 and younger than 21 do not require any cervical cancer screening as long as they are not at an above-average risk level. As always, check with your health care provider to figure out what makes the most sense for you and your health.
Correction: A previous version of this story inaccurately stated how often tests should be performed. This story has been updated to reflect the current guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.
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