Posted on November 20th, 2009 by
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has revised its cervical cancer screening recommendations: the organization now recommends that women begin screening at the age of 21 and receive screening at less frequent intervals. These recommendations will be published in the December 2009 issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Widespread use of the Pap test for cervical cancer screening has dramatically reduced cervical cancer mortality rates in the United States. Recommendations about optimal use of the Pap test continue to evolve.
Previously, ACOG recommended that women begin cervical cancer screening three years after first sexual intercourse or by age 21, whichever occurred first. Women under the age of 30 were advised to get Pap tests every year. Depending on their history, less frequent screening (every two to three years) was an option for older women.
The decision to change the recommendations was based on a review of the evidence, which suggested that later and less frequent screening prevents cervical cancer just as well, and avoids some unnecessary and potentially harmful interventions. Many adolescents develop cervical abnormalities that eventually resolve on their own. Treatment of these abnormalities may not be necessary and can increase the risk of premature births.
Updated recommendations are as follows:
The upper age limit for cervical cancer screening has not changed: ACOG notes that women may be able to stop cervical cancer screening at age 65 or 70 if they’ve had three or more normal Pap results in a row and no abnormal Pap in the previous ten years. Women at high-risk of cervical cancer may need to continue screening beyond this age.
Women who have been vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV) should follow the same screening guidelines as unvaccinated women.
Reference: ACOG news release. First Cervical Cancer Screening Delayed Until Age 21. Less Frequent Pap Tests Recommended. Available at: http://www.acog.org/from_home/publications/press_releases/nr11-20-09.cfm Accessed November 20, 2009.
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