Ask Sofia: Pap Smear or HPV Test?
You may have heard that you have more options available for cervical cancer screening. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recently offered up three options for this crucial screening.
While Pap smears are still recommended for women ages 21 to 29, HPV tests alone may be used for women ages 30 and up, according to the task force, since HPV or human papillomavirus is what causes 99 percent of cervical cancers. Women should receive a Pap test every three years or an HPV tests every five years; a combination of both tests can also be used. The most important recommendation from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is that all women be screened regularly until age 65.
“All three options are important and effective ways of screening for cervical cancer, and many women over 30 will appreciate the five years between tests,” said Dr. Amy Hammers. “We still encourage teens and young adults to receive the HPV vaccine before they are 26 years old, but screening is crucial for all women, regardless of vaccination status.”
Pap smears have decreased the rate of cervical cancer by more than 80 percent since they were widely adopted in the 1950s. Both tests use a swab to look for abnormal cells which could indicate cervical cancer or its possibility.