Cervical Cancer Screening Updates and Recommendations

The future is looking bright for eliminating cervical cancer altogether thanks to HPV immunization.

Cathleen E. Morrow, MD

Cervical cancer now accounts for less than one percent of all cancers in the U.S. It is one of few cancers that is entirely preventable through vaccination. Dartmouth-Hitchcock Primary Care Provider Cathleen E. Morrow, MD, explains what you need to know about preventing and screening for cervical cancer.

In her presentation from “Cancer Screening Recommendations & Updates 2021,” Morrow provides an overview of cervical cancer, including how virtually all cases are caused by human papillomavirus or HPV. Importantly, Morrow notes that HPV, and therefore cervical cancer, can be prevented through immunization.
She also explains why HPV detection though screening is effective and clarifies what screening means—who should be screened, how to be screened and how often. She touches on lifestyle habits and factors related to increased risk of cervical cancer, including smoking, HIV positivity, a history of multiple sexual partners and prolonged use of birth control pills.

The American Cancer Society and U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recently updated screening guidelines for HPV and cervical cancer, which Morrow notes are very straightforward, and highlights in her overview. Notably, the cornerstone of screening includes a PaP and an HPV test done during the same appointment, every three to five years. Morrow goes over the new age-based recommendations, as well as the age at which women with a history of negative tests who are not at high risk can stop screening.

“I want to emphasize that the real excitement of eliminating cervical cancer in the future is rooted in HPV immunization, which has been around now for more than 15 years. Generally we start talking to parents and kids between ages 11 and 12 about vaccination. It has been approved for up to age 26 and most states cover the immunization when it’s given to pre-teens,” says Morrow. "The future is looking bright for eliminating cervical cancer altogether thanks to HPV immunization.” 

The Thriving Thursday Cancer Survivorship Program is a collaboration between Dartmouth-Hitchcock Norris Cotton Cancer Center and the American Cancer Society.