Women Over 30 Can Replace a Pap Test with HPV Screening, Researchers Say

August 21, 2018, 5:43 PM UTC

Are you a woman over age 30? When it’s time for your cervical screening test, consider opting to get tested for HPV rather than having a full pap test. It’s enough, according to a panel of researchers appointed by the U.S. Department of Health.

According to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, or USPSTF, most cervical cancer is caused by human papilloma virus (HPV). According to the group, there’s strong evidence that HPV tests alone can be used to detect cancer in women over 30—no traditional pap test necessary.

The group, composed of primary care physicians and epidemiologists, previously recommended that women receive pap tests or a combination of a pap test and an HPV test. It published its new recommendations in the latest issue of JAMA, the peer-reviewed medical journal.

Women can wait five years between HPV tests, the group says. Its assembled experts think that time frame is a “good balance between benefits and harms,” reports NPR. The test is still effective at detecting cancer, but waiting five year can eliminate unnecessary follow-ups for things like biopsies. The HPV test is also better than a pap test at detecting a less common form of cervical cancer called adenocarcinoma, they say, so it’s a better choice than a pap alone. Both tests collect samples in the same way.

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