According to the US Preventive Services Task Force, cervical cancer screening should start at age 21. Screening can identify changes in the cells of the cervix that could lead to cancer. Screening might include a Pap test and, for some women, testing for human papillomavirus (HPV).
About one in four Americans are currently infected with HPV virus. HPV is the main cause of cervical cancer in women. The HPV vaccine is successful in protecting people from HPV related cancers. It is extremely important for boys and girls to receive the vaccine at age 11 or 12. The vaccine is the most effective when preteens receive the vaccine before exposure to HPV infection. The HPV vaccine is given in a series of two shots. For more information, refer to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s guide to HPV vaccines for preteens and teens.
Who should get screened for cervical cancer?
- Women aged 21-29 years should have a Pap test every 3 years
- Women aged 30-65 year should have a Pap test and an HPV test (known as “co-testing”) every 5 years (preferred). Although preferred, it is acceptable to have a Pap test every 3 years alone.
- Immunocompromised women, women who have a history of cervical cancer and women aged 65 and older should consult with their physician for screening management.