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Regular use of the Pap test followed by appropriate and timely treatment reduces deaths from cervical cancer. Women who have never been screened or who have not been screened in the past 5 years face a greater risk of developing invasive cervical cancer.
Percentage of women aged 18 years and older who reported they had a Pap test within the past 3 years.
Note: The most recent (2008) data are currently being reviewed. This section will be updated once research results have been published.
In 2005, 78 percent of women aged 18 and older had a Pap test within the past 3 years. This includes 74 percent of Hispanics, 80 percent of Blacks, and 79 percent of Whites. These rates were down for all women (from 79 percent in 2003), for Hispanics (from 75 percent in 2003), for Blacks (from 83 percent in 2003), and for Whites (80 percent in 2003). Among Asian women interviewed in California, 73 percent had a Pap test in 2005 (compared with 74 percent in 2003).
Increase to 90 percent the proportion of women aged 18 and older who have received a Pap test within the past 3 years.
Older, poor, and less educated women are less likely to be screened for cervical cancer. Older women are at greater risk than younger women of developing and dying from cervical cancer. Women who have received the human papillomavirus vaccination (HPV) should still continue to obtain Pap tests.
Regular Pap testing needs to be encouraged for all women. Special efforts are needed for older, poor, less educated, and immigrant women. Sexually active women also especially need Pap testing because they are more likely to be exposed to the human papillomavirus (HPV) and the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), both of which can increase the risk of developing cervical cancer.
HPV testing is a promising new technique that may improve screening efforts because detection of these viruses identifies women at higher risk of cervical cancer, who then may be followed more closely.
A new HPV vaccine for cervical cancer, shown to be effective in girls not exposed to the sexually transmitted virus, was recently released.
In November 2009, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) released new guidelines for cervical cancer screening which say women should delay their first Pap test until age 21, and be screened less often than recommended in the past. The advice is meant to decrease unnecessary testing and potentially harmful treatment, particularly in teenagers and young women. The group's previous guidelines had recommended yearly testing for young women, starting within three years of their first sexual intercourse, but no later than age 21.
Different organizations have generated different guidelines. To see guidelines issued by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and others, go to http://www.ahrq.gov/clinic/USpstfix.htm. The Guide to Community Preventive Services, http://www.thecommunityguide.org/index.html , is a source of information about evidence-based approaches for enhancing cancer screening.