By Dr. Dave Hnida

(CBS4) – Women over the age of 30 now have three options to screen for cervical cancer. That’s according to new recommendations from the U.S Preventative Medicine Task Force.

The first screening test that probably comes to mind is the Pap smear, a test that has been around for more than 50 years and has saved millions of lives (cervical cancer used to be more common that breast cancer in the early 20th century and before).

But now experts say the screening of choice may be an HPV test – the HPV stands for Human Papilloma Virus—a virus that is a trigger for almost all cases of cervical cancer.

The HPV test is done the same way as a pap—meaning you still need a pelvic exam, and a swab-like sample is taken—but it only needs to be done every five years, instead of every three, which is the recommendation for the pap smear.

For women between the ages of 21-29, the Pap smear is still considered to be the best test.

Now back to women 30 and older. The task for says the three options are these:

HPV test alone—every 5 years

A pap and an HPV test—the so-called combo test—every 5 years

A pap smear every 3 years

The screenings should be continued until age 65.

The recommendations can be found in the this week’s Journal of the American Medical Association, or at

Dr. Dave Hnida is CBS4’s Medical Editor. He blogs about the latest studies and trends in the health world. Read his latest blog entries, check out his bio or follow him on Twitter @drdavehnida


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