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Doctors Tell Women to Ditch Annual Pap Test

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?

Image Source: Getty
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Join The Conversation
pruffie pruffie 4 years
my doc says my pap is normal but wants to see me in 6 mos..why?
lemamike lemamike 6 years
Hiding55 I was in the same boat! Going about every 4 months for culposcopy due to cervical displaysia. I am back to once a year and everything is normal but what if those abnormal cells had gotten worse? I am only 21 now so had I taken this advice the situation could have been much worse. I think once a year seems fine. Especially for those who are sexually active with more than one person.
jenni5 jenni5 6 years
1st mammograms now this??? Is this a $ issue or are they genuinely concerned about women's health?
ojodeazul ojodeazul 6 years
I will keep getting tested...just the way I feel about it.
sparklestar sparklestar 6 years
In the UK we have them every 3 years to avoid possible mis-diagnosis.
imLissy imLissy 6 years
well, I assume you still would need an annual pelvic exam, just not a pap, so I doubt they'll start writing two year prescriptions for bc. doctors still want their money
tlsgirl tlsgirl 6 years
Woohoo!
tlsgirl tlsgirl 6 years
Woohoo!
RVASarah RVASarah 6 years
As long as the doctors and nurse practitioners write birth control prescriptions to cover two years instead of just one, I'm okay with every two years.
MissSushi MissSushi 6 years
They're doing the same thing with breast exams.. telling people not to do self, and are prolonging the amount between the exams by doctors. We are talking cancer here.. not a curable infection. Seems like a better safe then sorry situation for me. I also have a ton of pain with paps, so i really really despise them and most doctors have absolutely no finesse.
juicebox07 juicebox07 6 years
I don't really have a choice in the matter. In order for me to get my BC pills, I have to get an exam once a year.
cotedazur cotedazur 6 years
I think this sounds like a good idea. I've been suspicious of pap smears since a friend of mine had abnormal results, and the doctor insisted that she immediately have a colposcopy and a biopsy - an incredibly painful (and pretty expensive) procedure that left her bleeding and in pain for days. Turns out everything was normal. Then a month later, the same thing happened to me - abnormal results, the doctor wanted to do a biopsy immediately. I asked, "isn't it normal to have a second pap to confirm before having a colposcopy?" She replied, "Yes, but I don't like taking chances." I saw a different doctor for another pap, and everything was normal. Sometimes more care doesn't mean better care.
cotedazur cotedazur 6 years
I think this sounds like a good idea. I've been suspicious of pap smears since a friend of mine had abnormal results, and the doctor insisted that she immediately have a colposcopy and a biopsy - an incredibly painful (and pretty expensive) procedure that left her bleeding and in pain for days. Turns out everything was normal. Then a month later, the same thing happened to me - abnormal results, the doctor wanted to do a biopsy immediately. I asked, "isn't it normal to have a second pap to confirm before having a colposcopy?" She replied, "Yes, but I don't like taking chances." I saw a different doctor for another pap, and everything was normal. Sometimes more care doesn't mean better care.
Autumns_Elegy Autumns_Elegy 6 years
We get told to have them every two years here. Work for me, I hate getting my pap done. Last time I had one it hurt like hell and I bled a lot, I'm certain that wasn't normal.
Venus1 Venus1 6 years
Sounds a financial issue to me; not good!
Akasha Akasha 6 years
I think this recommendation is probably more the insurance companies not wanting to pay for them. These people will do whatever they can not to pay for anything, but are up your butt if you are one day late with your payment. I have to cover myself as my job doesn't have heath insurance. I've been contemplating changing my insurance because they don't want to pay for anything female related. Birth control is not covered, but viagra is. A voluntary hysterectomy isn't covered but a vasectomy is. I'm only covered for a pap every two years, and I can't even tell you the hoops I need to jump through to get a mammogram. I asked to get one before I turned 30 because a couple of my cousins got breast cancer and I was denied since it wasn't my mother or grandmothers they said it could have come from their other non-related parent. I also found out that if I were to have breast cancer that they would cover the mastectomy but not reconstruction as they don't cover voluntary plastic surgery and having an implant put in would be voluntary. That one threw me over the edge as I'm rather large so to have one missing would be quite noticeable. I swear if it had something to do with a penis they would be telling the men to get it done every five minutes.
Akasha Akasha 6 years
I think this recommendation is probably more the insurance companies not wanting to pay for them. These people will do whatever they can not to pay for anything, but are up your butt if you are one day late with your payment. I have to cover myself as my job doesn't have heath insurance. I've been contemplating changing my insurance because they don't want to pay for anything female related. Birth control is not covered, but viagra is. A voluntary hysterectomy isn't covered but a vasectomy is. I'm only covered for a pap every two years, and I can't even tell you the hoops I need to jump through to get a mammogram. I asked to get one before I turned 30 because a couple of my cousins got breast cancer and I was denied since it wasn't my mother or grandmothers they said it could have come from their other non-related parent. I also found out that if I were to have breast cancer that they would cover the mastectomy but not reconstruction as they don't cover voluntary plastic surgery and having an implant put in would be voluntary. That one threw me over the edge as I'm rather large so to have one missing would be quite noticeable. I swear if it had something to do with a penis they would be telling the men to get it done every five minutes.
imLissy imLissy 6 years
I really, really, really, really hate getting my pap.I don't know if I'm a pain wimp, but it hurts enough to make my eyes tear up and I bleed for three days after. My doctor says this is perfectly normal, but that doesn't make it any less annoying.So, um, this is good news for me.
imLissy imLissy 6 years
I really, really, really, really hate getting my pap. I don't know if I'm a pain wimp, but it hurts enough to make my eyes tear up and I bleed for three days after. My doctor says this is perfectly normal, but that doesn't make it any less annoying. So, um, this is good news for me.
GlowingMoon GlowingMoon 6 years
I think it depends on one's individual health and medical history. Every woman is different.Personally, I've never had an abnormal pap smear (and I hope that continues). I get one almost every year. However, several years ago, when I was overly preoccupied with a busy life, I lapsed, and got one after three years (I was shocked by how time I let pass). My results were normal (and my blood work yielded excellent results). For me, it was okay, as I was healthy and had a good medical history.
GlowingMoon GlowingMoon 6 years
I think it depends on one's individual health and medical history. Every woman is different. Personally, I've never had an abnormal pap smear (and I hope that continues). I get one almost every year. However, several years ago, when I was overly preoccupied with a busy life, I lapsed, and got one after three years (I was shocked by how time I let pass). My results were normal (and my blood work yielded excellent results). For me, it was okay, as I was healthy and had a good medical history.
Hiding55 Hiding55 6 years
I'll keep going once a year unless my doctor recommends otherwise. For a while I was going every 6 months for paps that resulted in colposcopies because I had cervical dysplasia. I'm very happy to have a normal pap smear and go for a yearly exam.
chloe-bella chloe-bella 6 years
I don't think this is at all related to health care reform. I've been through the whole abnormal test scare myself. My GYN is actually a professor of obstetrics at a top 5 U.S. med school, and she said that doctors have been moving away from aggressive treatment in the past decade (i.e. during the BUSH era). They used to think that HPV was permanent and that most abnormalities needed to be treated; now they take a "wait and see" approach with almost everyone. For example, I had pre-cancerous cells, and I was told to come back for another test in 6 months. My next test came back completely clear, no treatment necessary. So, I really don't think this is a shocking departure from the current practice and it definitely does not have anything to do with Obama or the public option.
weffie weffie 6 years
Does anyone know why they've always been at 1 year intervals in the first place? I get sti testing every 6 months anyway so it wouldn't save me a drawer-dropping visit to cut back. I guess I'll just stick with whatever my dr says. A friend of mine (who is 22) recently had abnormal cells on her pap and was completely freaked out for a couple of weeks before finding out everything was basically fine, so I can see how for someone like her every 2 years would be good enough and a little less stressful.
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