According to the CDC, human papillomavirus (HPV) virus is the main cause of cervical cancer, which affects about 12,000 women in the United States each year. But now, there may be a way to assure cervical cancer screenings are more accessible.

The FDA has approved a new method of self-screening for HPV. The approval for self-screening is reserved for the doctor’s office currently, but at-home tests may be available in the future.

The new self-screening option helps make HPV testing more accessible, but it does not replace regular physical exams, including Pap smears, according to Joshua G. Cohen, MD, FACOG, FACS, the medical director of the gynecologic cancer program and a board-certified gynecologic oncologist at City of Hope Orange County in Irvine, California.

The American Cancer Society recommends cervical cancer screenings starting at age 25. Women ages 25 to 65 have the option to get the HPV test or a combined HPV and Pap smear test every five years or a Pap smear alone every three years.

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