Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable types of cancer, and women can be screened for it with routine Pap tests.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) is now recommending women begin cervical cancer screening at age 21, instead of 3 years after the onset of sexual activity, as was previously recommended by the group.
The American Cancer Society recommends that all women should begin cervical cancer screening within three years after they start having sex and no later than age 21, and screening should be done every year with a regular Pap test.
The Pap test (or Pap smear) looks for pre-cancers, cell changes on the cervix that may become cervical cancer if they are not treated appropriately.
The American Cancer Society recommends:
- Beginning at age 30, women who have had 3 normal Pap test results in a row may get screened every 2 to 3 years. Women older than 30 may also get screened every 3 years with either the conventional or liquid-based Pap test, plus the human papilloma virus (HPV) test.
The human papillomavirus (*HPV) test looks for the virus that can cause these cell changes.
- Women 70 years of age or older who have had 3 or more normal Pap tests in a row and no abnormal Pap test results in the last 10 years may choose to stop having cervical cancer testing.
- Women who have had a total hysterectomy (removal of the uterus and cervix) may also choose to stop having cervical cancer testing, unless the surgery was done as a treatment for cervical cancer or precancer.
- Women who have had a hysterectomy without removal of the cervix (a supra-cervical hysterectomy) need to continue cervical cancer screening and follow the guidelines above.
The CDC Recommends the following steps to help prevent Cervical Cancer –
- Use condoms during sex
- Limit your number of sexual partners
*HPV infection can occur in both male and female genital areas that are covered or protected by a latex condom, as well as in areas that are not covered. While the effect of condoms in preventing HPV infection is unknown, condom use has been associated with a lower rate of cervical cancer.
Sources: CDC, Black Women's Health Imperative