The method of screening for cervical cancer has been improved, so there is now a new professional recommendation, to which we have adjusted RMC’s protocol, as well. Changes have taken place in the method of the screening test, its frequency, and its use according to age.
The reason for the change is that the screening method used thus far – cytology-based and recommended for every woman – only proved to be about 70-80 percent effective. This meant that 20-30 percent of severe precancerous conditions were not recognized. According to the latest approach, the focus of the screening must be not on the disease, but on its cause, so screening must be for high risk Human Papilloma Virus (hrHPV) types. DNA-based molecular biological tests are used for this, and if the virus is detected, then the patient needs to be more closely monitored, even if she has received a negative cytology result.
The new, more effective screening test is comprised of a cytology test and a hrHPV DNA test. This comprehensive test is, on the one hand, more reliable, as it raises the number of cases detected to 99 percent, and on the other hand, it allows for screenings to take place at longer intervals. Instead of the former annual exam, the American protocol calls for screening every 5 years. RMC’s protocol is more cautious, recommending a screening cycle of every 3 years. This is altered only in certain cases which are determined by the treating physician.
Recommendations based on age have also changed in regard to when cervical cancer screening should start and which age group should choose the comprehensive test.
- 3 years after becoming sexually active (but no later than age 21 years), the familiar cytology-based screening should be started. This continues to be a good method for this age group, and does not need to be supplemented with the HPV-based test up to the age of 25. The reason for this is that in women aged 21 to 25 there is a high – about 30 percent - ratio of transfection, but the significant majority of these heal on their own and require no action.
- Over the age of 25, until the age of 65 the cytology-based screening must be supplemented with the HPV test and carried out every 3 years, according to our protocol.