HPV Test Alone OK for Cervical Cancer Screening Over 30: Expert Panel

From Drugs.com - September 12, 2017

HPV Test Alone OK for Cervical Cancer Screening Over 30: Expert Panel

TUESDAY, Sept. 12, 2017 -- An influential U.S. panel of health experts is boosting support for the HPV test as a routine part of cervical cancer screening.

The independent U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) -- which issues closely heeded guidelines on a range of medical issues -- says the test for the human papillomavirus (HPV) can be used once every five years for women aged 30 to 65, in lieu of the once every three-year Pap test.

Prior guidelines had called for the use of both tests together.

For younger women, aged 21 to 29, a Pap test once every three years is still the recommended screen, the panel said.

Certain strains of sexually transmitted HPV are thought to cause the vast majority of cervical cancer cases.

"One of the biggest differences between these guidelines and the former guidelines is that the new guidelines recommend against co-testing -- HPV test and a Pap test at the same time -- for women at the ages of 30 to 65," noted Dr. Stephanie Blank, an ob/gyn who reviewed the guidelines.

Instead, "the new guidelines are recommending Pap alone with [follow-up lab tests] every three years or HPV testing alone every five years, but not both together," said Blank. She directs Women's Health at Mount Sinai Downtown Chelsea Center in New York City.

As she explained, the rationale behind the change was that -- based on the evidence -- there was no increase in deaths whether women got both tests together or just the one test.

According to the new USPSTF advisory, cervical cancer screening is not recommended for women who are younger than 21, older than 65 (who have already had regular screenings when they were younger), and women of any age who do not have a cervix because they have undergone a hysterectomy.

The draft recommendation is a change from the panel's 2012 recommendation, which said that women aged 30 to 65 receive both the Pap test and HPV test at the same time.

The task force is an independent, volunteer panel of experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine. The draft recommendation is open for public comment on the task force's website between Sept. 12 and Oct. 9.


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