Several prominent, professional organizations have issued specific guidelines on cervical cancer screening. Guidelines presented by the American Cancer Society (ACS), American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology (ASCCP), American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP), the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) address the time to start screening, the screening methods and intervals, the time to stop screening, and the use of the HPV test. An excellent comparative summary of these guidelines can be found at the CDC’s web portal.
A copy of the comparative guidelines from the CDC website are provided on this page. However, it is important to periodically check for updates as these guidelines may change.
Here is a summary of the recommendations that are currently included in the guidelines:
When to begin cervical cancer screening
Most guidelines recommend screening with Pap test once a woman becomes sexually active, but not before age 21.
Intervals for screening with Pap smear or liquid-based
Most recommend every 3 years. However, there is also a recommendation that annual well-woman visits should occur, even if cervical cancer screening is not performed at each visit.
All organizations agree that HPV co-testing should not be used for women aged <30 years. The recommendation varies for women age 30-65 years.
Use of HPV Test and use of the cobas HPV test as a primary screening method
No professional organization has at this point recommended the use of HPV testing alone. They do recommend against screening for cervical cancer with HPV (alone or in combination with cytology) in women aged <30 years. However, the Society of Gynecologic Oncology and the American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology are leading the way in efforts to review the efficacy of primary HPV screening and to also determine how to incorporate the HPV test into screening practice.