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2003 Cervical Cancer Guidelines by U.S. Preventive Services Task Force

In January 2003, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) released new guidelines on cervical cancer screening.  The key to continued reductions in deaths from cervical cancer is early detection.

During 2002, about 4,100 women in the United States died from cervical cancer. This number reflects an estimated 70 percent decline from the mid-20th century, when the Papanicolaou (Pap) test - the collection of cells from the cervix for examination under a microscope - was first introduced as a screening tool.  Cervical cancer screening is important to detect significant abnormal cell changes that may arise before cancer develops.

In recent years, researchers have identified HPV, which is transmitted through sex, as the main cause of cervical cancer. 

A summary of the new guidelines follows:
 •  Cervical cancer screening should begin approximately three years after a woman begins having sexual intercourse, but no later than at 21 years old.
   •  Experts recommend waiting approximately three years following the initiation of sexual activity because transient HPV infections and cervical cell changes that are not significant are common and it takes years for a significant abnormality or cancer to develop. Cervical cancer is extremely rare in women under the age of 25.
   •  Women should have a Pap test at least once every three years.
   •  Women 65 to 70 years of age who have had at least three normal Pap tests and no abnormal Pap tests in the last 10 years may decide, upon consultation with their healthcare provider, to stop cervical cancer screening.
   •  Women who have had a total hysterectomy (removal of the uterus and cervix) do not need to undergo cervical cancer screening, unless the surgery was done as a treatment for cervical precancer or cancer.
   •  Women should seek expert medical advice about when they should begin screening, how often they should be screened, and when they can discontinue cervical screenings, especially if they are at higher than average risk of cervical cancer due to factors such as HIV infection.

The USPSTF guidelines are available at http://www.ahrq.gov/clinic/3rduspstf/cervcan/cervcanrr.htm

For more information about cervical cancer, see the Pennsylvania cervical cancer attorneys.