Pap testing, the standard for cervical cancer prevention for decades, will become obsolete under a new guideline from the American Cancer Society (ACS), replaced by testing for human papillomaviruses (HPV), the cause of cervical cancer. This shift follows declining cervical cancer risk in young women resulting from HPV vaccination over the past 15 years.
The rarity of cervical cancer in young women also allows them to wait to begin screening until age 25 and to obtain screening only every five years. HPV testing is obtained by pelvic exam, just like Pap testing.
Previously, the ACS recommended that women ages 21-29 receive a Pap test every three years and that women ages 30-65 receive HPV testing and a Pap test every five years. Pap testing alone and Pap and HPV co-testing both remain options as clinicians and labs transition to HPV-only screening methods, according to the new ACS guideline.
The shift away from the Pap test “reflects the rapidly changing landscape of cervical cancer prevention in the United States, calling for less and more simplified screening,” according to the ACS. Studies show that HPV testing is more accurate than the Pap test and can be done less often, the group said.
- See “American Cancer Society recommends new screening guideline for cervical cancer” on the Washington University Siteman Cancer Center website (July 30, 2020)
- See the full statement on “Screening for Cervical Cancer” by the American Cancer Society