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Health Check: Cervical cancer screenings

How often should a woman be screened for cervical cancer? (WJAR)

How often should a woman be screened for cervical cancer?

That's what the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is charged with determining -- and it has come out with some new recommendations

Dr. Maureen Phipps, who is the chair of the department of OBGYN at Women and Infants Hospital, is one of the select few members of the task force.

"It's a 16-member panel, independent panel of experts in evidence-based medicine, public health methodology in different areas of primary care, but also public health,” Phipps told NBC 10 News.

Its latest task: recommendations for cervical cancer screening.

"The recommendation from the task force is that all women get a cervical cancer screening," said Phipps.

But it gets more specific from there.

"Women who are 21 to 29 years old should have a pap test or cervical cytology -- that's cervical cancer screening every three years,” she said.

Phipps said it is not recommended for women under the age of 21, regardless of whether they have been sexually active.

The recommendations, she said, are not new. They were established in 2012.

Women 30 to 65 can continue to be screened every three years.

"Or they can go to having HPV testing every five years," said Phipps.

HPV, or the human papillomavirus, has been associated with cervical cancer. This, she said, is a new recommendation

"The difference is that in 2012 the recommendation was for co-testing,” said Phipps.” You could opt for co-testing – HPV, plus cervical cytology every five years."

All of this, she said, is evidence based. And there’s more.

"Over the age of 65, it really depends on the history of a woman,” said Phipps. “If she's had completely benign pap testing or cervical cancer testing over her lifetime, she does not need further cervical cancer screening."

Right now, the recommendations are just in draft form and open for public comment until early October.

While it is recommended pap tests be spaced out, it doesn't mean you should skip your annual OBGYN visits because, as Phipps said there are other important screenings performed by your OBGYN, such as breast and pelvic screenings.

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