Which Screening Prevents The Most Cervical Cancer? Go With Co-Testing

Which Screening Prevents The Most Cervical Cancer? Go With Co-Testing

Bradley Linzie, MD, FCAP, right, describes the difference between normal and cancerous cells to Gulirana Minhas, of Richfield, Minn., after she received her Pap test result during a free breast and cervical cancer screening program at the NorthPoint Health and Wellness Center in Minneapolis, Minn., Tuesday, October 5, 2010. (Craig Lassig/AP Images for College of American Pathologists/See, Test and Treat)

When it comes to screening for cervical cancer, American women can choose the Pap test or the human papillomavirus (HPV) test. The Pap has been the mainstay of screenings since Georgios Papanicolaou developed it in the late 1920s—still most successful cancer screening program in history. The HPV test looks for highest risk strains of the virus responsible for causing nearly all cervical cancer.

The debate over which of these is most effective and reliable at detecting and preventing cervical cancer has driven frequent, often confusing changes in cervical cancer screening guidelines from a multiple medical organizations over the past decade The most recent screening recommendations came from the US Preventive Services Task Force a few weeks ago.

While USPSTF recommendations for women ages 21-29 remained the same as before (a Pap every 3 years), the USPSTF gives women ages 30-65 a choice: a Pap every 3 years, an HPV test every 5 years or a Pap plus HPV test every 5 years.

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