Forget About Those Annual Pap Smears? Really?


By now most of you have probably heard about the new national guidelines for pap smears, but if not -  ladies you can now skip your annual pap smear and instead just get one every three years.

So says the United States Preventive Services Task Force, who issued the new guidelines last week, replacing recommendations last issued in 2003.

Once. Every. Three. Years. [Are they serious?]

They are.

The reasoning behind this absurd  latest recommendation is that annual pap smears often result in false positives, that lead to sometimes painful biopsies and put women at risk for pregnancy complications in the future, like preterm labor, low-birth-weight infants and infertility.

Plus, cervical cancers are supposedly slow growing cancers, so no worries, ladies.

It is also recommended that women do not start getting pap smears at all until age 21- even if they have become sexually active and thus exposed to HPV, years earlier.

Surprisingly enough, The American Cancer Society agrees with the task force guidelines:

  • Screening with the Pap test alone every 3 years is extremely safe and will decrease the number of false positive results without leading to an increase in cancer or cancer deaths.
  • For women ages 30 years and older, testing with both the HPV test and the Pap test further decreases the risk of cancer and advanced pre-cancers. When both tests are normal, no cervical cancer screening test should be done again for 5 years. (Huh??)
  • Women younger than age 21 do not need to be screened for cervical cancer.
  • Women over the age of 65 who have been regularly screened, and women who have had a hysterectomy (with removal of the cervix) for reasons not related to cervical cancer or pre-cancer, should no longer be screened.
  • Women should talk to their doctors about what screening test to use and how often, and should question their doctors if they think they are being screened too often.
  • Women can and should still see their doctors more often than every 3 or 5 years - just not for a Pap test. Doctor visits should be scheduled for general wellness, with Pap tests and HPV tests given according to guideline.

These new guidelines just do not work for me. Just the thought of what could happen in the course of three years 'down below' scares me and I for one will not be following these new recommendations.

Will you?