Cervical Screening Recommendations Changing

U.S. Preventive Services Task Force expected to change cervical cancer screening guidelines

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) The current guidelines for cervical cancer screening have been in place since 2003. A governmental task force is expected to modify those recommendations.

Following a review of published literature, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) is expected to update its cervical cancer screening recommendations. This literature includes evidence-based findings that have come to light since 2003 when the current guidelines were implemented.

"Look for new cervical cancer screening recommendations to be announced soon."

The USPSTF recently suggested that PSA testing as a means of screening for prostate cancer was more harmful than beneficial.

For this study, researchers analyzed literature weighing the benefits and harms of HPV testing as an alternative to or in conjunction with conventional Pap smears in women aged 30 and older.

While HPV screening does provide some cancer prevention benefit over Pap smears alone, the positives don't add up to recommend this testing in this age group.

Looking at the negative impact, HPV testing can  result in false positives that can lead to procedures that aren't necessary and overtreatment, along with emotional turmoil.

More evidence is needed to understand if HPV testing is worthwhile as a screening tool in this demographic.

Researchers also looked at the ages when cervical cancer screenings should begin and end:

  • Because cervical cancer is rare before the age of 20, the latest research suggests screening begin at 21. Screening before this age could be harmful and interfere with later pregnancies.
  • For women who have had recent normal pap smears and are not at elevated risk of cervical cancer, screenings can end at age 65.

This evidence review will form the basis of a draft recommendation that will be published for public comment on October 19th.

An analysis of this review was published October 17, 2011 in The Annals of Internal Medicine, which will also publish the final recommendations at a later date.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 18, 2011
Last Updated:
October 18, 2011