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Keywords:

  • cervical cancer screening;
  • guidelines;
  • human papillomavirus;
  • Papanicolaou test

Cervical cancer screening algorithms have changed with the introduction of testing for human papillomavirus (HPV) and better understanding of the natural history of HPV. This review was undertaken to present recent developments related to cervical cancer screening, with HPV testing as a focus. Specifically, guidelines now recommend initiating cervical cancer screening at age 21, stopping at age 65 to 70 if previous tests are normal, and screening no more than every 2 to 3 years. Human papillomavirus testing is now incorporated into guidelines for cervical cancer screening in the United States, with the major impact being the lengthening of recommended screening intervals. Primary screening with HPV testing, although not yet approved in the United States, may serve to increase access to care for the millions of underserved women worldwide who bear most of the burden of cervical cancer. Despite clear guidelines from authoritative sources, many clinicians (including midwives) overscreen women. In cervical cancer screening, as in many areas of women's health care, performing tests that are unlikely to result in useful information may lead to harm.