Today several medical groups have released proposals on cervical cancer prevention, and while they agree on the current guidelines that recommend women 21 to 29 get Pap tests every three years instead of yearly, they disagree on HPV screenings.
The US Preventative Services Task Force says that women under 30 should not be using HPV tests alone or in combination with a Pap to screen for cervical cancer. Even though the HPV virus can lead to cervical cancer, in younger women it usually clears out on its own. And the government-run task force notes that "screening for HPV causes more false positive cancer results than the Pap smear alone."
While the task force isn't for HPV testing, the guidelines issued by the American Cancer Society, the American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology, and the American Society for Clinical Pathology say routine HPV tests should be an option along with Pap tests.
"The main difference is that, dating back to 2002, the American Cancer Society and several other organizations recommended that HPV testing, along with the Pap test, is a good option for screening women starting at age 30," says Debbie Saslow, the American Cancer Society's director of breast and gynecologic cancer.
Luckily, the groups are taking public comment before coming together with a final set of consistent guidelines in the next couple months. Let's hope they are less confusing than these initial proposals!
What do you think about the every-three-year Pap for cervical cancer? (Not to be confused with a yearly breast and pelvic checkup.) Doctors have and continue to push the yearly Pap, sometimes making it mandatory before getting a yearly birth control prescription. But whether it's gyno-suggested or not, are you still getting a yearly Pap test, or do you spread it out over every few years like the new recommendations say?