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Screening Tests for Young Adults (Ages 19-29)

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Not everyone in this age group may need screening for every condition listed here. Click on the links above to read more about each condition and to determine if screening may be appropriate for you or your family member. You should discuss screening options with your health care practitioner.

Cervical Cancer

Most deaths from cancer of the cervix (the lower part of the uterus, or womb) can be avoided by having regular checkups and Pap smears. This is a slow-growing cancer that can take several years to develop. Most often, cancerous cells are seen in women 40 years of age or older. Routine screening can help identify cervical cancer early on, at a time when it is highly curable. Screening even finds precancerous lesions that can be monitored or removed before cancer ever starts to develop.

Recommendations

Cervical cancer screening recommendations for young women from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the American Cancer Society (ACS), and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) are as follows:

  • Women between the ages of 21 and 29 should have a Pap smear every 3 years.

CAP Reminder Service

A Pap smear for women younger than 21 is not recommended because the incidence of cancer in this age group is very low. False-positive results may occur due to normal cell changes and are somewhat common. The false-positive results may generate unnecessary and costly treatment as well as emotional anxiety.

Pap smears are available from family planning clinics and public health departments as well as from health care providers (including pediatricians, family physicians, obstetrician-gynecologists, and nurse practitioners).

HPV Testing
In general, screening for the presence of human papilloma virus (HPV DNA test) is not recommended in women younger than age 30 because infections with HPV are relatively common in this age group and often resolve without treatment or complications. It is recommended that women 21 years old or older be screened for HPV in addition to the Pap smear only if the Pap smear shows abnormal results.

Even if you do not need a Pap test each year, for most women an annual well-woman exam is still recommended, reminds ACOG.


Link
College of American Pathologists: MyHealthTestReminder.com - Pap Test


Sources Used in Current Review

U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for Cervical Cancer. Release Date: March 2012. Available online at http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf/uspscerv.htm through http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org. Accessed March 2012.

Moyer, VA on behalf of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for Cervical Cancer: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation Statement. Annals of Internal Medicine, March 6, 2012, 156(5). Available online at http://www.annals.org/content/early/2012/03/14/0003-4819-156-12-201206190-00424.full through http://www.annals.org. Accessed March 2012. 

American Cancer Society. New Screening Guidelines for Cervical Cancer. Article date: March 14, 2012. Available online at http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/news/News/new-screening-guidelines-for-cervical-cancer through http://www.cancer.org. Accessed March 2012. 

Reuters. Wait longer between Pap tests, doctors say. October 22, 2012. Available online at http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/10/22/health-cancer-papsmear-idUSL3E8LM84D20121022 through http://www.reuters.com. Accessed November 2012.

ACOG. Ob-Gyns Recommend Women Wait 3 to 5 Years Between Pap Tests. October 22, 2012. Available online at http://www.acog.org/About_ACOG/News_Room/News_Releases/2012/Ob-Gyns_Recommend_Women_Wait_3_to_5_Years_Between_Pap_Tests through http://www.acog.org. Accessed November 2012.

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