Wednesday, October 24th, 2012
Most women only need Pap smears, the most common screening test for cervical cancer, every 3 to 5 years, according to a new set of guidelines by the nation’s largest OB-GYN association. The Associated Press has more:
Many medical groups have long recommended a Pap test every three years for most women. The new advice from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says that’s true for women ages 21 to 29 whose Paps show no sign of trouble.
But for healthy women ages 30 to 65, the preferred check is a Pap plus a test for the cancer-causing HPV virus, the group concluded. If both show everything’s fine, they can wait five years for further screening.
The guidelines from the nation’s largest OB-GYN organization agree with advice issued earlier this year by a government panel, the American Cancer Society and other medical groups — showing growing consensus that it’s safe for the right women to wait longer between Paps.
Cervical cancer grows so slowly that regular Pap smears, which examine cells scraped from the cervix, can find signs early enough to treat before a tumor even forms.
Image: Gynecologist, via Shutterstock
Tuesday, March 20th, 2012
Women between ages 21 and 65 should only receive Pap smear tests, which screen for abnormalities in the cervix, every 3-5 years, rather than every year. This is the message of two separate sets of recommendations released last week by the US Preventive Services Task Force and the American Cancer Society.
The new recommendation impacts not only women’s health in general, but parents whose daughters have received the HPV vaccine against some types of cervical cancers. For one thing, the new recommendations suggest that girls begin receiving Pap tests at age 21, rather than age 18 as was previously the norm. Girls who received the HPV vaccine still need to receive Pap smears every 3-5 years, though.
The Boston Globe’s health blog has more:
While previous versions of the guidelines urged screenings every two or three years in women over 30, enough evidence has accumulated from recent studies to take a strong stance against yearly screenings in younger adults too. “Screening every three years is equally effective at finding cancers as annual screening, but it may be safer since it results in fewer false positive tests and fewer unnecessary treatments that could be harmful,” said Dr. Wanda Nicholson, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill, who served on the committee that wrote the task force’s recommendations.
Women whose Pap smears are abnormal often undergo cervical biopsies, which can involve anxiety and discomfort. Repeated biopsies can weaken the cervix, raising the risk of miscarriages and premature births in women who later become pregnant. Reducing screenings from annually to every three years can cut the rate of biopsies in half, according to the American Cancer Society, without increasing the death rate from cervical cancer, which kills about 12,000 American women each year.
A similar rationale was used to determine that women should avoid screening until age 21. Many young women get HPV infections more frequently than the flu and these infections “tend to be transient and clear on their own without treatment,” said Dr. Sarah Feldman, director of Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s Pap Smear Evaluation Center.
Image: Speculum with Pap smear swab, via Shutterstock.
Friday, October 21st, 2011
The United States Preventative Task Force, a group that’s comprised of government agencies, doctors, and major cancer groups, is recommending that women should receive pap smear tests every three years, rather than annually as has long been common practice.
Pap smear tests are still the best way to detect cervical cancer, a diagnosis some 12,000 American women receive each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the task force says annual testing is not necessary, and in fact may be harmful for some women.
“If you test every year you find a lot of benign infections that would go away on their own,” Philip Castle of the American Society for Clinical Pathology told Reuters. “You end up overscreening, overmanaging and overtreating women who are not actually at risk of getting cervical cancer.”
The task force also recommended that women not receive pap smears until they are 21 years old, citing risks including vaginal bleeding, pain, infections,and psychological impacts of facing a possible cancer diagnosis.
This same group recently recommended that healthy men not receive regular prostate exams.
(image via: http://www.buzzle.com/)