Federal health advisors say women can now consider three options when it's time for their cervical cancer screening tests. The influential group, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), has expanded its recommendations for this potentially life-saving exam.
The new recommendations were published in the latest issue of JAMA.
Pap smears have saved many lives since they became available decades ago. Inspecting samples of cervical tissue for pre-cancerous changes is effective at catching possible cancer, and is still the go-to test for women aged 21 to 29, according to the USPSTF guidelines. But there's another option.
"Most cervical cancer is caused by what's called the human papilloma virus, or HPV," says Stanford Health Policy's Dr. Douglas Owens, a professor of medicine at Stanford Medicine and vice-chair of the USPSTF. "And we now have tests for HPV and that's an important step forward."