Studies Show Little Benefit from Too-Frequent Pap Tests: Women Should Discuss New Guidelines with Their Physicians

February 2, 2015 5:12 PM

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January was Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, a chance to raise awareness about how women can protect themselves from HPV (human papillomavirus) and cervical cancer. While annual Pap test screenings in the past 30 years have reduced the cervical cancer rate by 50 percent [1], it isn't the only way to detect cervical cancer. As it turns out, we only need to have one every three years. A newly released survey [2] from the National Association of Nurse Practitioners and Healthy Women found women and their doctors resistant to change in cervical cancer screening. To help ease some of this fear, let's look at the reasoning behind the new guidelines.

Almost 12,000 new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed in the U.S. each year [3]. Cervical cancer is almost always caused by HPV, the most commonly sexually transmitted disease. Unfortunately, the Pap smear doesn't detect HPV [4]. The test for high risk types of HPV is done after collecting cells ...

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