Healthcare professionals have been advising female patients for the past 60 years that an annual pap smear is vital in the fight against cervical cancer. Now the United States Preventive Services Task Force is recommending less frequent pap smears. The recommendation was joined by the American Cancer Society and published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Here’s an excerpt of the published statement: “This recommendation statement applies to women who have a cervix, regardless of sexual history. This recommendation statement does not apply to women who have received a diagnosis of a high-grade precancerous cervical lesion or cervical cancer, women with in utero exposure to diethylstilbestrol, or women who are immunocompromised (such as those who are HIV positive).
The USPSTF recommends screening for cervical cancer in women age 21 to 65 years with cytology (Papanicolaou smear) every 3 years or, for women age 30 to 65 years who want to lengthen the screening interval, screening with a combination of cytology and HPV testing every 5 years. See the Clinical Considerations for discussion of cytology method, HPV testing, and screening interval (A recommendation).
The USPSTF recommends against screening for cervical cancer in women younger than age 21 years (D recommendation).”
In making the new recommendations, one of the task force members spoke to the NY Times and said, “We achieve essentially the same effectiveness in the reduction of cancer deaths, but we reduce potential harm of false positive tests,” said Dr. Wanda Nicholson, a task force member and an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “It’s a win-win for women.”
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