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Cervical cancer screenings are about to get much easier

Women in the US aged 30 to 65 may soon have better access to screenings that can prevent a potentially-fatal cervical cancer diagnosis. 

New guidelines from an influential task force say women should be able to ask for a Pap smear every three years, rather than having to wait for five.

And they say women should also be given the option to have their Pap smear and HPV testing done separately, since 'co-testing' often results in false alarms, and could lead to extreme, unnecessary operations.

The guidelines announced today were recommended by the US Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF), which usually influences insurance providers who follow their lead on which preventative screenings and medications to cover.

If insurance companies do comply, experts say women will soon be able to tailor their healthcare more to their specific needs.

An independent panel of healthcare experts has proposed that women should be able to choose between getting a Pap smear and and HPV test, both of which check women for cervical cancer

An independent panel of healthcare experts has proposed that women should be able to choose between getting a Pap smear and and HPV test, both of which check women for cervical cancer

Cervical cancer has dropped dramatically over the past half-century thanks to Pap testing.

Still, this year an estimated 12,820 US women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer, and about 4,200 will die. Most haven't been screened, or have gone too long between checks.

Doctors perform Pap smears by swabbing a woman's cervix and then checking the cells they obtained for signs of cervical cancer.

HPV testing looks for high-risk strains of the human papillomavirus, the nation's most common sexually transmitted infection.

Just about everyone will get at least one strain at some point in their lives, according to the CDC. But only certain strains cause cervical cancer - and

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