Research & Education
Just last month, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) released updated cervical cancer screening recommendations. Similar guidelines were also published by a collaborative group consisting of The American Cancer Society (ACS), the American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology (ASCCP) and the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP).
The new recommendations guide women on when and how frequently they should be tested using the two current types of cervical cancer screening: cervical cytology, more commonly known as the Pap smear or Pap test, and HPV testing.
Summary of the new recommendations
Why the changes?
These recommendations reflect a delicate balance between benefits and harms, ensuring that women still reap the benefits of early detection while minimizing the risk of overtreatment.
We now know that it takes several years for human papillomavirus (HPV), the infection that is responsible for nearly all cervical cancers, to develop into cervical dysplasia or cancer. Furthermore, many women who have HPV may clear the infection naturally in a few years. Annual testing may lead to unnecessary treatment - and unnecessary side effects – of early lesions and abnormalities that may never pose any harm.
One size does not fit all when it comes to cancer screening
It’s important to note that these recommendations are for women at average risk of developing cervical cancer. Those at high risk, such as women with prior abnormal pap smears, organ transplants or those with HIV, may need to follow a different screening schedule. Every woman should talk with her doctor about her individual screening needs.