Cervical Cancer: Forgotten but Not Gone

The National Women’s Health Network (NWHN) has long advocated for improved access to basic health care, so all women can have access to appropriate screening and treatment. Cervical cancer related deaths have been on the decline in recent years but far too many women, particularly low-income women, women of color, and immigrants are still dying from this highly preventable disease.

We advocate for increased access to screening because it works. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) currently recommends healthy women receive a Pap test once every three years from age 21 to 65 and the human papilloma virus (HPV) test once every five years from age 30 to 65. We support this approach to screening. However, this month, the Society of Gynecologic Oncology and the American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology issued a statement recommending that the HPV test replace the Pap test altogether.

HPV is a very common sexually transmitted infection that is responsible for almost all cases of cervical cancer. Two HPV types, HPV 16 and HPV 18, account for over two-thirds of cervical cancer diagnoses alone. Fortunately, most of HPV infections resolve on their own without causing any harm and that’s why the NWHN doesn’t recommend the HPV test for women under 30.

Because the HPV test finds infections that would never cause any problems, this change in clinical procedure would mean more unnecessary and invasive medical procedures for women. We recognize the importance of providing all women timely and appropriate cervical cancer screening and treatment services - effective screening can eliminate cervical cancer! That means working to ensure that all women have access to basic health care, including appropriate gynecological services like cervical cancer screening. We also strive for a healthcare system that does not unnecessarily subject women to invasive medical procedures without improving their health.

You can count on the NWHN to keep advocating for better access to health care, and to monitor developments in screening technologies. You can help make cervical cancer a thing of the past by joining with us to make sure all women have access to the care they need.

For more information on the HPV DNA test interim report, click here.

The continued availability of external resources is outside of the NWHN’s control. If the link you are looking for is broken, contact us at [email protected] to request more current citation information.