Call it a case of bad timing, but the surprsing new recommendations from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) regarding pap smears for women came out just one week after the controversial recommendations from a government task force about women receiving mammograms later in life. It has been widely accepted that women should receive pap smears, which test for cervical cancer, once a year and they should begin within three years after being sexually active (or at the age of 21). The new recommendations from the ACOG state that women should begin getting the pap test at age 21 (no earlier) and that they should not necessarily receive the test once a year.
An article from Web MD outlines the latest recommendations from the ACOG. After taking the latest medical data into account the ACOG states that women between the ages of 21 and 30 should only receive the pap test once every 2 years and women 30 and older with 3 consecutive normal pap tests should have the test done every 3 years. Additionally, women aged 65 to 70 can stop taking the test all together if they have had 3 consecutive normal tests and no abnormal tests within 10 years. The ACOG also states there should be increased screening rates in women with risk factors for cervical cancer.
ACOG's case against teenagers receiving pap tests is that it is very rare for adolescents to have cervical cancer and in many cases the HPV infection (which has been linked to cervical cancer) clears up on its own naturally in younger patients. Ob-Gyn Mark H. Einstein reports to Web MD that he agrees with the ACOG's new guidelines. He says, "The vast majority of abnormalities identified through early screening are clinically irrelevant manifestations of (transient)HPV infection. Early screening stigmatizes young women and subjects them to extra testing and unnecessary treatment."
The ACOG still recommends women have annual gynecological exams if their doctors think it is necessary. But many argue that with the new recommendations of spacing out pap tests to every 2 or 3 years it will cause a lot of women to stop going in for an annual exam and possibly missing other problems that arise.
What do you think of the new recommendations from the ACOG regarding pap tests?
Do you think after receiving these recommendations some women will be more likely to forgo an annual trip to their gynecologist?