Pap smear – new recommendations

The Pap smear is the best way to screen for cervical cancer and yearly screening has been routinely recommended for a long time. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, however, is now recommending that screening be changed to once every three years.

The change, supported by various cancer groups including the American Cancer Society, comes from the belief that annual testing finds “a lot of benign infections that would go away on their own.” Philip Castle of the American Society for Clinical Pathology continued saying “You end up overscreening, overmanaging and overtreating women who are not actually at risk of getting cervical cancer.”

The task force was made up of primary care doctors who are experts in the field of evidence-based research. The cancer groups agreed that, for women who are not at increased risk for cervical cancer, testing every three years makes more sense. The cancer groups also agreed with the recommendation that women under the age of 21 do not need to be tested.

 If you’re not certain which schedule is best for you, talk with your health care provider about it.

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