Should you consider a cervical cancer screening this year?

Cervical cancer screening guidelines and preventative steps you should be discussing with your doctor

When it comes to cervical cancer, there’s good news: Though cervical cancer is one of the most common causes of death for Americans assigned female at birth, the number of people dying is decreasing due to an increase in routine screening for the disease and the use of the HPV vaccine.

Routine Cervical Cancer Screenings

Cervical cancer screening recommendations are different for every patient.  There are two tests to screen for cervical cancer: the Papanicolaou (Pap) test and the human papillomavirus (HPV) test. When consulting with your doctor, they will recommend one of these tests or both, and may also recommend the HPV vaccine. 

Pap Testing - A Pap test, or Pap smear, is used to find cell changes or abnormal cells in the cervix. When this test is performed, a swab is sent to a lab where it is examined for cancer cells or cells that can become cancerous in the future.

HPV Testing – Similar to a Pap test and most recently approved as another screening method, your physician takes a sample and has it tested for high-risk HPV subtypes that could lead to abnormalities on the cervix.

Routine screenings are the only way to catch precancerous cells that may become cancerous, detect cervical cancer early, and receive an early diagnosis of HPV before cancer develops.

Cervical Cancer Screenings by Age

The American Cancer Society recommends the following routine screenings for these age groups:

  • 25 years old – Routine cervical cancer testing should begin.
  • 25-65 years old – Pap test and an HPV test every five years unless abnormalities are identified.
  • 65 years and older – Screening is unnecessary if you have had negative test results in the past ten years, have no history of cervical dysplasia or a more serious diagnosis within the past 25 years, and do not have a new partner.

No matter which tests you get and if you have been vaccinated for HPV, you should still get screened regularly. You do not need to be screened if you have had a hysterectomy unless you have had an abnormal Pap smear prior to hysterectomy OR a new partner post-hysterectomy, as vaginal dysplasia can also occur. If you have a history of serious pre-cancer, you should still maintain a routine screening schedule for at least 25 years after the condition was found, even if it is past the recommended age of stopping regular screenings.

Talk to your OBGYN or primary care provider to determine if you should schedule a cervical cancer screening this year. McLaren has specialists across the state. If you need an OBGYN or primary care specialist, click here to search for a McLaren provider accepting new patients.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with cervical cancer, or if you need a second opinion, schedule a consultation with the experts at Karmanos. It is important to be evaluated by cancer experts before beginning treatment.

Read more about cervical cancer, screening and prevention here.