Cervical cancer may affect many more women over age 65 than previously believed, which could drastically affect current medical guidelines, according to a recent NBC News article.

A rare but very deadly disease, cervical cancer is diagnosed in 12,000 U.S. women every year and kills 4,000. Many women over the age of 65 believe they no longer need gynecological exams, but a recent study shows that the rate of risk for cervical cancer for this age group is actually 83 percent higher than previously thought.

The problem lies in the fact that current guidelines do not take into account the high rate of hysterectomy in the U.S. Even though 20 percent of U.S. adult women cannot get cervical cancer because they have had a hysterectomy, they are still included in risk calculations, skewing the data. The actual rate of cervical cancer is almost 25 women per 100,000 women aged 65 to 69.

The United States Preventive Services Task Force and the American Cancer Society currently recommend against routine yearly testing, recommending instead that women aged 21 to 65 get either a Pap smear or a test for HPV every three years. Women over 65 who have had three “clear” screens in a row are told they don’t need the test any more.

“We traditionally thought that the higher risk was among middle-aged women,” said Anne Rositch, an assistant professor of epidemiology and public heath at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “But when we redid the data we found that the rate of cervical cancer continued to increase up to the ages of 65-69.” Read the full article here:

Older Women May Face Higher Risk of Cervical Cancer

Don’t stop getting PAP smears after menopause.

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