Cervical cancer usually is regarded as a disease that affects mostly young women. But a recent study contends that belief is not accurate.
Current guidelines indicate that women may stop getting screened for cervical cancer at the age of 65. However, many older women lack the appropriate amount of screening history to evaluate their real risk. A new study has found that incidence rates of the disease actually don’t decline until 85 years of age, and suggests that continued surveillance could be beneficial after all.
The study “Cervical Cancer Screening and Incidence by Age: Unmet Needs Near and After the Stopping Age for Screening” was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Researchers found that in women who have not undergone a hysterectomy, the incidence of cervical cancer increases with age until age 70 and does not begin to decline until age 85.
In addition, the study data also revealed that many women approaching the “stopping age” of 65 had not been screened sufficiently in the past. While only 12% of women in their 40s had no recent screening history, that number progressively increased for women in their 50s and 60s.
Current recommendation guidelines state that three consecutive negative cytology results, or two consecutive negative cytology and HPV co-test results, within the past 10 years – with the most recent test being done within the past five years – are considered enough data to stop screening after the age of 65.
Using 2013 and 2015 data from two National Health Interview Surveys (NHIS), investigators found that about 850,000 women aged 61 to 65 years had not been screened in the past five years.
“An older woman who has not had her cervix surgically removed has the same or even higher risk of developing cervical cancer compared to a younger woman,” said Mary C. White, lead investigator of the study, in a press release. White is chief of epidemiology and applied research at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Women who have not had a hysterectomy need to continue to be screened until age 65 and possibly later if they have not been screened for many years or are at special risk, consistent with current U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendations,” she said.
“In the short term, efforts could be undertaken to clarify misperceptions about the risk of cervical cancer among older women and providers,” White added. “Messages about a “stopping age” need to emphasize the recommendation for an adequate screening history of previous negative tests before screening is discontinued, not just chronologic age,” she said.