With the advancement of DNA technology, it has been determined that 99% of cervical cancers are caused by Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). There are many subtypes of HPV, and a small number have been detected in cervical cancers. These subtypes are called high risk HPV subtypes. The highest risk types are types 16 and 18.
The probability that a woman aged 18 to 24 will contract at least one subtype of HPV is near 75%. Most of these are low risk subtypes and eventually are cleared by the body's immune function, which will generally clear without treatment.
New Recommendations / Guidelines Regarding Pap Smear Testing
Gardasil and Cervarix protect against high risk types and can prevent infection with types 16 and 18.
Your first Pap Smear will not occur until age 21 or older.
Sexually transmitted disease testing should be performed, but pap smears are deferred until age 21 or older.
Pap smears between 20 and 30 should be every 1 to 2 years, but should not include HPV testing.
This does not mean don't go to your OB/Gyn! There are many other women's health issues to deal with and appointments should continue to be yearly despite the fact that a pap smear is not done annually. This recommendation does not apply to women with previous abnormal pap smears or who are being followed for abnormal pap smears.
If there is a low risk history and /or HPV high risk testing is negative Paps can safely be every 3 to 5 years.
Once again this does not mean go the doctor every 3 to 5 years. Continue annual examinations!
If you have been treated for a High Grade Precancerous change of the cervix, you should have annual pap smears for a minimum of 20 years.
The exact duration and method of follow up should be determined by your doctor. Such a long follow up period has to do with the possibility of recurrence because of persistent HPV colonization of the cervix and vagina. Treatment of precancerous changes removes the precancerous change, preventing development of cancer, but does not clear the HPV virus.