Increasingly women are falling behind on cervical cancer screening

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Increasingly women are falling behind on cervical cancer screening

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a substantial decline in screening for common cancers such as breast, prostate, and colon cancers. A recent study added cervical cancer screening to the tests being put off by women.

MedPage Today reports, “More and more U.S. women were behind on guideline-recommended cervical cancer screening in recent years, with lack of knowledge about needing screening cited as the primary reason for not being up to date, researchers” found.

In the study, “the percentage of women not up to date on their screening increased from 14.4 percent in 2005 to 23 percent in 2019.”

The researchers found that “the most common reason given for not receiving timely cervical cancer screening was not knowing screening was needed, increasing from 45.2 percent to 54.8 percent over the study period.”

The findings were published in JAMA Network Open.

So, what are the current cervical cancer screening recommendations of the American Cancer Society? I’m glad you asked.

  • Cervical cancer testing (screening) should begin at age 25.
  • Those aged 25 to 65 should have a primary human papillomavirus (HPV test)* every 5 years. If primary HPV testing is not available, screening may be done with either a co-test that combines an HPV test with a Papanicolaou (Pap) test every 5 years or a Pap test alone every 3 years.*A primary HPV test is an HPV test that is done by itself for screening. The US Food and Drug Administration has approved certain tests to be primary HPV tests.)
  • Those over age 65 who have had the regular screening in the past 10 years with normal results and no history of an abnormal screen (CIN2 or more serious diagnosis within the past 25 years) should stop cervical cancer screening. Once stopped, it should not be started again.
  • Women who have had a total hysterectomy (removal of the uterus and cervix) should stop screening (such as Pap tests and HPV tests) unless the hysterectomy was done as a treatment for cervical cancer or serious pre-cancer.
  • Women who have had a hysterectomy without removal of the cervix (called a supracervical hysterectomy) should continue cervical cancer screening according to the guidelines above.
  • Women who have been vaccinated against HPV should still follow these guidelines for their age groups.

The ACS adds, “The most important thing to remember is to get screened regularly, no matter which test you get.”

Some people believe that they can stop cervical cancer screening once they have stopped having children. This is not true. They should continue to follow American Cancer Society guidelines.

The ACS adds this about cervical cancer:

Cervical cancer was once one of the most common causes of cancer death for American women. The cervical cancer death rate dropped significantly with the increased use of the Pap test for screening. But the death rate has not changed much over the last 10 years.

In recent years, the HPV test has been approved as another screening test for cervical cancer.  The HPV test looks for infection by high-risk types of HPV that are more likely to cause pre-cancers and cancers of the cervix. The HPV test can be used alone (primary HPV test) or at the same time as the Pap test (called a co-test).

Screening tests offer the best chance to have cervical cancer found early when treatment can be most successful. Screening can also actually prevent most cervical cancers by finding abnormal cervical cell changes (pre-cancers) so that they can be treated before they have a chance to turn into a cervical cancer.

© Copyright WLL, INC. 2022. This blog provides healthcare tips and advice that you can trust about a wide variety of general health information only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from your regular physician. If you are concerned about your health, take what you learn from this blog and meet with your personal doctor to discuss your concerns.

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