While it is not currently recommended that women over the age of 65 be tested for cervical cancer, there is new research that suggests those recommendations may change. The Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Alabama recently presented findings that explained why they believe that the current guidelines should be different from what they are now.
Symptoms of cervical cancer can be any of the following:
- Spotting or bleeding after menopause
- Bleeding after intercourse, douching, or a pelvic examination
- Increased vaginal discharge
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Unexplained, continued pelvic or back pain
The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) currently suggests that only women between the ages of 21 and 65 be tested regularly for cervical cancer by pap smear or human papillomavirus (HPV) testing, claiming that the benefits of testing do not outweigh the risks for women older than 65. However, this new research found about 20 percent of new cases of cervical cancer to be in women older than the suggested age range. The data also showed that while 5 percent of cervical cancer cases were diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 29, 8 percent of the cases were diagnosed in women between the ages of 70 and 79.
Because of how testing guidelines are laid out at the moment, many women over the age of 65 will not be covered by their insurance if they wish to be tested for cervical cancer. Additional research may be needed before the USPSTF will change the guidelines. For now, knowing the symptoms of cervical cancer and being aware of your own body can be one of your best preventatives.