Women who've been immunized still need the screen every 3 to 5 years, cancer specialists say
TUESDAY, Jan. 24, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- The HPV vaccine helps prevent cervical cancer but that doesn't mean women should forgo Pap test screening, cancer experts say.
Women of all ages need to continue to undergo this screening test for precancerous or cancerous cells on the cervix even if they've received the vaccine, advised gynecologic oncologist Dr. Jayanthi Lea, from UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.
"The vaccine reduces the risk of cancer, but has not yet been shown to eliminate the need for screening," Lea said.
Lea and her colleagues said that once women have been vaccinated against the human papillomavirus (HPV) -- a virus that can cause cervical cancer -- they don't need to get screened every year as in the past.
"Routine cervical screening for women under age 21 and over 65 is no longer recommended. Research has found that testing every three years is sufficient, unless the patient has a health history that requires more frequent screening," Lea said.
"There is also the option of combining a Pap test with HPV testing. When testing is done this way, it is typically performed every five years," she said.
January is Cervical Health Awareness Month.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides more information on the HPV vaccine.