A new Dutch study has found that women only need cervical cancer screenings every 10 years if they’ve perpetually tested negative for HPV.
In the United States, women routinely have cervical screenings annually. However, new research proves this to be excessive, expensive and unnecessary.
The study, however, clarifies that the gap between visits can be widened for women over the age of 40. Those under 40 will still need to be tested more routinely, however it is still thought that once per year is still too often unless there are clear abnormalities.
In the United Kingdom, for example, women between the ages of 25 and 49 are screened for cervical cancer once every three years. Women ages 50 to 64 are tested once every five years. However, the National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom is considering extending the gap even further between visits.
Research conducted by a team from the Netherlands analyzed nearly 43,000 women’s cervical results from the ages of 29 to 61 and followed up for 14 years to determine how many of them went on to develop cervical cancer.
It was found that women over the age of 40 who had never tested positive for HPV had a 72% lower risk of developing cervical cancer than their younger counterparts.
The researchers, who hail from the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, also feel that HPV tests are a better indicator of whether a woman will develop cancer than looking at cells from a pap smear.
The new research was published in the British Medical Journal.
However, this doesn’t mean that women should not be in contact with their doctors or continue to monitor their bodies for any suspected changes.
Johannes Berkhof, who led the study, stated:
“Close monitoring of interval cancers in between these two screening time points that are 10 years apart is crucial.”
Dr. Jana Witt of Cancer Research UK echoed Berkhof’s sentiment, stating that it is incredibly important that women continue to look after their bodies in between screenings:
“It’s important to remember that whatever your screening history, always tell your doctor if you notice any unusual changes to your body such as bleeding between periods, during sex or after menopause.”