Women often overscreened for cervical cancer, study finds

Many women undergo screening for cervical cancer and HPV more frequently than the recommended three- to five-year period recommended by the American Cancer Society, according to research published April 29 in JAMA Network Open

Utilizing a national database, researchers identified more than 2 million women aged 30 to 65 who underwent cervical cancer screening between 2013-14. Researchers tracked repeat testing during a three-year follow-up period. 

Overall, 17.7 percent of women who underwent initial testing had a repeat test within the first year. More than half had a repeat cervical cancer screening within two years, and 65.8 percent had a repeat test within three years. 

Women aged 60-64 and those with medical comorbidities were among those less likely to undergo repeat screening, according to the analysis. Overuse of screening was more prevalent for women in the Northeastern U.S. compared to those living in the Western region of the country, as well as among those with frequent outpatient visits, or whose initial test detected a sexually transmitted infection. 


"Despite evidence-based guidelines, overuse of cervical cancer screening was common," researchers said, adding that "overuse of cervical cancer screening leads to a number of downstream consequences," such as unnecessary psychological stress and heightened healthcare costs. 

The American Cancer Society's current guidelines recommend an HPV test alone every five  years for women aged 25 to 65. In situations where HPV tests alone are unavailable, the recommendation is screening with an HPV/Pap co-test every five years, or a Pap test alone every three years. 


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