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Cancer Screening Guidelines

March 16, 2012 by staff 

Cancer Screening Guidelines, Color enhanced transmission electron micrograph of Human Papillomavirus (HPV), isolated from common warts. Although infection with human papillomavirus, or HPV, is the leading cause of cervical cancer, until now, an influential government group has been reluctant to recommend using the HPV test to screen for the disease.

That changed on Wednesday when the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommended that the HPV test is appropriate for some women as part of routine cervical cancer screening. The task force had previously said, in draft guidelines released in October, that there wasn’t enough evidence to recommend the HPV test, but the new recommendations are based on a review of the most recent scientific studies, which find that HPV tests can reliably detect cervical cancer and spare lives.

The group published its advice in the Annals of Internal Medicine this week. At the same time, the American Cancer Society and other groups released similar screening recommendations. In general, the new advice scales back the frequency of screening for cervical cancer – a slow-growing disease – in order to maximize its benefits for women, while reducing its risks. False-positive results can lead to unnecessary biopsies that may affect the health of pregnancy in the future, increasing women’s risks of preterm birth and low-birth-weight babies.

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