Most women only need a test every 3 years after a couple of normal tests in row (yeay!):
“There’s really no advantage to annual screening compared to screening every two or three years,” lead author Katherine Roland told Reuters Health.
Guidelines from the American Cancer Society and other organizations recommend that women age 30 and older are screened using Pap smears and tests for the human papillomavirus, or HPV. (For younger women, the ACS recommends starting testing at age 21 or three years after beginning sexual activity.)
If both tests are normal, those guidelines call for a three-year wait before the next screening. That’s because HPV — which causes changes in the cervix that can lead to cancer — may take a decade to progress to that point.
“No test is perfect,” said Philip Castle, an HPV expert at the American Society for Clinical Pathology in Chicago. But, he added, “a single negative HPV test is very good at ruling out disease.”
Even when doctors use just a Pap test, Roland said, a woman who has had a few normal tests in a row can go two or three years before her next screening.