Of all the gynecologic cancers, only cervical cancer has proven prevention and screening tools
One of the most common and trustworthy tests used to detect precancerous and cancerous gynecologic conditions is the Pap Test. Removal of the abnormal cells prevents cervical cancer. Pap tests can also find cervical cancer early, when the chance of being cured is very high.
The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is available for girls and women to prevent cervical cancer. It is recommended for girls ages 11-12, but can be given beginning at age 9. It also can be given to girls and women age 13-26 who did not get any or all of the shots when they were younger. Ideally, girls should get three doses of this vaccine before their first sexual contact. The HPV vaccine protects against the types of HPV that most often cause cervical cancer.
In addition to the Pap test, the HPV test may be used for screening women 30 or older. It also is used to provide more information when Pap test results are unclear for women 21 and older.
- All women should begin cervical cancer screening at age 21.
- Women between the ages of 21 and 29 should have a Pap test every 3 years. They should not be tested for HPV unless it is needed after an abnormal Pap test result.
- Women between the ages of 30 and 65 should have both a Pap test and an HPV test every 5 years. This is the preferred approach, but it is also OK to have a Pap test alone every 3 years.v
- Women over age 65 who have had regular screenings with normal results should not be screened for cervical cancer. Women who have been diagnosed with cervical pre-cancer should continue to be screened.
- Women who have had their uterus and cervix removed in a hysterectomy and have no history of cervical cancer or pre-cancer should not be screened.
- Women who have had the HPV vaccine should still follow the screening recommendations for their age group.
- Women who are at high risk for cervical cancer may need to be screened more often. Women at high risk might include those with HIV infection, organ transplant, or exposure to the drug DES. They should talk with their doctor or nurse.
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