New guidelines published Wednesday have concluded it may be safe for some women to go as long as five years between pap tests. The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) concluded that the risks to women regarding the development of cervical cancer in between screenings was minimal, according to CBS News.
The USPSTF also concluded that women under 21 shouldn’t be screened at all. Women older than 65 can stop getting screened if their pap smears have been normal up to that point.
Who determined these new guidelines?
The USPSTF determined the new requirements regarding pap smears and HPV screenings. They worked in conjunction with the American Cancer Society, the American Society for Clinical Pathology, and the American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology. The new guidelines are in line with previous recommendations by the American College of Gynecology, according to Daily Rx.
What specifically are the new guidelines?
Women under 21 no longer need to get screenings at all, even if they are sexually active. Women between the ages of 21 and 30 should now get a pap smear every three years, providing that previous screenings had normal results and the woman had also had an HPV screening done at that time that proved negative for the virus. Women between the ages of 30 and 65 can now reasonably go up to five years between pap smears, providing that previous tests were normal and there was a corresponding HPV test that was also negative at that time, and women that are over the age of 65 can stop getting screened altogether if they have previously tested negative for HPV and have had a history of normal pap smears.
Why the changes to the guidelines?
Research in recent years has shown that the risks of false-positive test results and corresponding unnecessary procedures outweighed any benefits of screening women more often, according to MSNBC. Specifically it has been found that women in the past have often gone through procedures to remove lesions and other problems that actually are very common and usually go away on their own. The USPSTF is hoping that by altering the guidelines, fewer of these unnecessary procedures will take place.
Additionally, screening for HPV every year in younger women has also been deemed largely unnecessary, as most women under the age of 30 have some form of the virus at any given time. Screening less frequently grants physicians to catch the issues and forms of HPV that are actually problematic and can cause cervical cancer.
Lastly, researchers have found that cervical cancer itself tends to take a significant amount of time to appear. A woman can have pre-cancerous cells for many years before cervical cancer actually develops.
Vanessa Evans is a musician and freelance writer based in Michigan, with a lifelong interest in health and nutrition issues.
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Submited at Friday, March 16th, 2012 at 6:00 pm on Health by jessica
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