Q: If you had the HPV vaccine, can you get fewer cervical cancer screenings?
Oz says: You still need to stay on top of your screenings. Yes, a recent Harvard study theorized that vaccinated women may be able to wait as long as 10 years between screenings, but a lot more research has to confirm this theory before any guidelines change.
Why you need the tests if you've had the shots: The most current version of the vaccine protects against nine of the 14 strains of HPV, the virus that causes cervical cancer, says Mona Saraiya, M.D., an associate director of the CDC's Office of International Cancer Control. (Earlier versions guarded against fewer strains.) That shields you from 82 percent (but not 100 percent of cancers. Whether you had the vaccine or not, stay on track with the schedule below.
How Often to Test for Cervical Cancer
- Ages 21–29: Every 3 years get a Pap. Experts say it's not worth getting the HPV test yet because young women often have the virus but will clear it out.
- Ages 30–65: Every 5 years get a Pap and an HPV test. If they're normal, you're at very low risk of cervical cancer in the next five years.
- Ages 66+: You're exempt if you have no history of abnormal cervical cells and have had three negative Paps in a row, or two negative Pap/HPV combo tests. (The most recent has to have been in the past five years.) HPV turns into cancer slowly, so if you're low-risk now, experts say the chance of it becoming cancer in your lifetime is slim.
This story originally appeared in the April 2017 issue of Dr. Oz The Good Life.
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