Most women don't meet criteria to safely discontinue cervical cancer screening, study finds

While current U.S. guidelines recommend cervical cancer screening stop at age 65, less than 1 in 3 women aged 64-66 met the criteria to safely discontinue screening, according to research published June 7 in Gynecologic Oncology.

The study, led by researchers at Boston Medical Center, included 590,901 women aged 64 with employer-sponsored insurance who were enrolled in a national database between 2016-18, and 1,544 women aged 64-66 who received primary care at a safety net health center in 2019. 

Participants were evaluated for screening exit eligibility by current guidelines, which include no evidence of cervical cancer or HIV-positive status and no evidence of cervical precancer in the past 25 years, and evidence of either a full hysterectomy or meeting screening exit criteria, defined as either two HPV screening tests, two HPV plus Pap co-tests, or three Pap tests within the past 10 years without an abnormal result, according to guidelines from the American Cancer Society. 

Findings showed most women, including 65.7 percent from the national database, and 56.7 percent from the safety net hospital group, did not have sufficient documentation to fulfill exit criteria. Insurance status did not seem to make a difference in terms of qualifying to safely discontinue screening, as 41.5 percent of women with 10 years of continuous coverage fulfilled the criteria. 

"It's imperative for providers to proactively ensure that their patients receive adequate screening between the ages of 55 and 65 to decrease preventable cancers in women over the age of 65, and to make sure that their patients are adequately screened to be able to safely exit screening, if their health history qualifies," said Rebecca Perkins, MD, study author and OB-GYN physician at Boston Medical Center. 

"No patient should ever discontinue screening based on age alone without their healthcare provider completing a thorough review of their medical record," she said. 

To view the full study, click here.  

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