When Eva Peron died of cervical cancer in 1952, she didnt know what she was suffering from. In those days, some doctors were willing to keep the C word from patients. Times sure have changed and for the better. Cervical cancer rates have plummeted more than 50 percent in the past 30 years; we now know what causes it (certain strains of the HPV virus); theres an HPV vaccination (ask your doc if youre eligible); and were never reluctant to talk about cancer screening, since it saves lives.
However, recent headlines saying women need a PAP smear (to check for cervical cancer) only every three to five years dont tell the whole story. But we will. The new American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommendations are:
1. Women younger than 21 dont need a PAP smear, even if theyre sexually active, although they (and women of all ages) should get a yearly gyno exam to check for STDs and other problems.
2. From ages 21 to 30: Screen every two years with PAP smear only; no HPV test.
3. Women 30 to 65 whove never had cervical dysplasia (precancerous cells) should get a PAP smear and an HPV test (two swabs, one exam). If both are negative no cancer or precancerous cells your risk of cervical cancer is almost zero, says ACOG. You dont need another combo test for five years.
4. If you dont want an HPV test or dont have access to one, get a PAP every three years.
The You Docs Mehmet Oz, host of The Dr. Oz Show and Mike Roizen of Cleveland Clinic are authors of YOU: Losing Weight. To submit questions, go to www.RealAge.com. A King Features syndicate.