There may be no need to feel guilty about putting off your annual trip to the gynecologist anymore! New guidelines from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists assert that healthy women should not get cervical cancer screening pap tests every year. Instead they encourage women to get the screening every two to three years. The medical group also recommends against getting a pap test until after the age of 21, even if an adolescent is sexually active.
The new recommendations against annual cervical cancer screenings are not intended to save you embarrassment or discomfort — they're meant to prevent unnecessary and possibly harmful treatments. For example, treatment of precancerous HPV symptoms that would otherwise go away on their own puts women at a higher risk of giving birth to a premature or underweight baby. Still, cervical cancer rates have dropped 50 percent since the 1970s mostly thanks to the pap test, so I hope the doctors aren't trying to fix something that isn't broken. But the authors of the guidelines explain that the same results can be accomplished with less-regular screenings.
I'll admit the idea that less screening can be better for your sexual health seems counterintuitive. Will you stick to your annual pap test or do you welcome a chance to get one less frequently?