In 2012, the Group of US Preventive Services Work UU and the American Cancer Society recommends lower frequency of cervical cancer screening for American women. The recommendation may seem counterintuitive, since an early diagnosis of cancer often offers the best results of treatment, however, less frequent cervical cancer screening tests are recommended, as it takes a relatively long time, up to 20 years, so that cervical cancer cells develop from normal cervical cells.
A Papanicolaou smear is a screening test for cervical cancer. During a speculum examination, the doctor collects cell samples from the inside and outside walls of the cervix and a laboratory examines the cells of the cervix under a microscope. The abnormal results of the Papanicolaou indicate that the cells seem atypical. Atypical cervical cells are classified into categories according to the level of change they show, ranging from normal to cancerous: mild dysplasia, also known as cervical intraepithelial neoplasia, or CIN 1, moderate dysplasia or CIN 2 and severe dysplasia or CIN 3, which is also called carcinoma in situ.
Approximately 70 percent of atypical cells and CIN 1 return within six years. Only 10 to 20 percent of CIN 3 cells eventually develop cervical cancer. Women who smoke or who are malnourished, immunocompromised or who have a family history of cervical cancer are at increased risk of developing cervical cancer of the human papilloma virus, or HPV, a sexually transmitted infection. HPV infects young women when they become sexually active, but most women are able to eliminate the infection from their body within a few years. Only a small percentage of women infected with HPV strains have a high risk of developing cervical cancer.
The evaluation guidelines in 2012 apply to women with no history of cervical dysplasia. The guidelines state: Women should not have a Pap test before age 21. Those between the ages of 21 and 65 should have a Pap smear once every three years. If you are 30 or older, get a Pap test once every five years, if you have a history of normal and negative Pap tests. If you have had your cervix removed during a hysterectomy for benign reasons or if you are older than 65 years, it is no longer necessary to have Pap tests performed unless you have a history of cervical dysplasia, in which case Pap tests should be followed for 20 days. years after the results of the Pap test returned to normal.
Although most women only need a Pap test every three to five years, it is still important to have a complete annual physical exam, with a breast and pelvic exam. The pelvic exam is done to determine if there is pain or enlargement of the uterus or ovaries. Keep in mind that a Pap test is a test only for cervical, non-vaginal, uterine or ovarian cancer.