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Answers about the test guidelines

October 20, 2011

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At what ages should screening start and end?

The task force recommends against screening women under 21 or older than 65. Very few cervical cancer cases occur in women under 21, so the old advice to start screening three years after the age of first intercourse has been changed. HPV tests are approved only for women after age 30 because transient infections that do not pose a cancer risk are more common at younger ages.

“We should not be screening teenagers,’’ said Debbie Saslow, the cancer society’s director of breast and gynecologic cancer. “It’s not helping, it’s not finding any more cancers, and it’s creating way too many harms for them,’’

Should anyone else not be screened?

Women who have had their cervix and uterus removed should not be tested, but check with your doctor: Not all hysterectomies are complete; some leave the cervix.

What does screening cost?

Pap tests cost $15 to $60; HPV tests run $50 to $100.

Will insurance pay for HPV tests, even though the government panel does not endorse them?

Probably. They are included in preventive services that other federal advisers say should be covered under the Affordable Care Act, and the government has continued to pay for mammograms for women who want them even if it is sooner or more often than the task force recommends.

What if I have had the HPV vaccine?

Doctors do not know how the vaccine will affect HPV test results or how long the vaccine lasts, so women should still be screened for cervical cancer if they are within the recommended screening ages.

SOURCE: Associated Press

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