According to the CDC, Cervical Cancer Screening rates have been extremely low as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Regardless, these screenings offer the best chance to detect cervical cancer at its earliest stages where treatment can be more successful. In the United States, the number of cervical cancer cases over the past 30 years has decreased by one half as a result of women getting regular cervical cancer screenings. With this in mind, the low screening rates during 2020 and 2021 are concerning.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends that women with a cervix should begin cervical cancer screenings every 3 years between the ages of 21 to 29 and every 5 years for women ages 30 to 65. Depending on a woman’s age, screen test can be done with Pap tests, HPV tests, or both to help prevent cervical cancers by detecting any abnormal cervical cell changes (pre-cancers) at their early stages before any symptoms appear.
Both the Pap test and the HPV tests use cells taken from the cervix. The screening process is simple and fast, the cell sample are taken with the use of a speculum and then removed from the cervix with the use of a brush or another sampling instrument; the cells are then put into a special liquid and sent to a laboratory for testing. Usually, samples taken for Pap tests are also used for HPV tests, regardless, two cell samples can be taken depending on the type of Pap test used.
For Pap tests, samples are examined to see if abnormal cells are present
For HPV tests, samples are tested for the presence of the most common high-risk HPV types
The most important thing to remember is to get screened regularly regardless of which test you get. Screenings for cervical cancer have recently become more personalized for each patient due to a variety of factors such as personal and family health history, which can directly affect your risk level. It is important for women to schedule and attend their yearly cancer screening with their primary care provider to decide on the appropriate screening schedule based on their risk level for developing cervical cancer later on in their life. For higher risk patients, screenings are recommended to start at an earlier age and on a more regular basis than for women who have an average risk of cervical cancer.