Screening women for cervical cancer every single year may do more harm than good.
For fifty years an annual Pap smear has been the gold standard of screening for cervical cancer in women. Now a federal advisory group and the nation's leading cancer organization have changed their tune. They no longer recommend that women have a Pap test each year.
The recommendations do not apply to women who are at very high risk for cancer, such as those who have been diagnosed with a high-grade precancerous cervical lesion or who have weakened immune systems.
- To Screen or Not to Screen. That Is the Question
- CDC Calls for More Colon Cancer Screening
- Should Your Child Have a Cholesterol Test?
The US Preventive Services Task Force, (USPSTF) a panel of independent experts convened by the government, and the American Cancer Society (ACS) have each released new guidelines for cervical cancer screening that recommend against routine yearly testing. Instead, the guidelines recommend testing every 3 years for women aged 21 to 65.
For women aged 30 to 65, the new guidelines recommend screening every 5 years with both a Pap smear and a test for the human papillomavirus (HPV). That recommendation is based on data showing that less frequent screening with both tests provides a comparable benefit in cancer detection to more frequent Pap testing alone. Routine screening of women younger than 21 and older than 65 is not advised under the new guidelines.
Pap testing has been responsible for a dramatic reduction in cervical cancer deaths.
The updated recommendations apply to women, regardless of sexual history, who have a cervix and show no signs or symptoms of cervical cancer. The recommendations do not apply to women who are at very high risk for cancer, such as those who have been diagnosed with a high-grade precancerous cervical lesion or who have weakened immune systems.