Aside: I have no known risk factors for colon cancer. I did
a colonoscopy at age 50—no cancer or polyps, which generally
means you don’t need another colonoscopy for 10 years—and
at age 62, I did Cologuard, which is done from home. Some
insurance companies cover Cologuard, but some do not.
Most cervical cancer is caused by certain types of HPV
(human papillomavirus). Screening for cervical cancer
consists of a Pap test (used to be called a Pap smear), along
with an HPV test for some women. ;e Pap test is named
a;er Dr. George Papanicolaou and has been around for more
than 50 years.
Since 2006, there is an HPV vaccine recommended for
girls and boys at ages 11 or 12 (although it can be given as
early as nine years old). ;is vaccine, given before children
are exposed to HPV, protects males and females “against the
infections that cause most cases of anal cancer, mouth/throat
cancer, and genital warts, as well as many cases of cervical,
vaginal, and vulvar cancer in women, and penile cancer in
men,” according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Current guidelines for cervical cancer screening (assuming
average risk for cervical cancer) are:
• American Cancer Society: Females 21 to 29 should get
a Pap test every three years. It does not matter when
the woman became sexually active. At age 30, have an
HPV test combined with the Pap test every ;ve years
until the age of 65, or have only the Pap test every
three years between the ages of 30 and 65. Women
over 65 who have had regular screenings the last 10
years and no serious pre-cancers within the last 20
years may stop cervical cancer screening.
• U.S. Preventative Services Task Force: Similar to the
American Cancer Society.
• Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Similar
to the American Cancer Society.
Bottom Line: In 2017, according to the American Cancer
Society, 12,820 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer
and an estimated 4,210 women are expected to die from it.
Aside: New research published on January 23, 2017, in the
journal Cancer found that the incidence of cervical cancer
is higher than previously thought. When women without
cervixes due to hysterectomies were excluded from the group
being studied, the researchers found that black women and
women over the age of 65 are dying from cervical cancer at
higher rates than previously thought. ;is new research may
lead to recommended screening for cervical cancer as long as
women have a cervix.
Change can be di;cult. Some patients feel that newer
screening recommendations are cost-saving e;orts by the
medical profession, rather than adjustments based on the
most current research and doing the least harm to the patient. Some doctors are not up-to-date on current screening
recommendations, lack the time to fully explain the reasons
for the changes to the patient, or continue with the “old” ways
of doing things because their patients prefer what is familiar
;e wisest approach? Talk with your health care provider
and make decisions that are best for YOU.
Jan Cullinane is an award-winning retirement author, speaker, and consultant. Her current book is
The Single Woman’s Guide to Retirement (AARP/Wiley).
Change can be difficult. Some patients feel that newer
screening recommendations are cost-saving efforts by the
medical profession, rather than adjustments based on the most
current research and doing the least harm to the patient.