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Doctors Recommend Against DIY Pap Smears

Doctors Say Go Ahead and Pass on DIY Pap Smears

DIY isn't a term I like to associate with my health — I'm cool with a DIY manicure, but when it comes to something as important as screening for cancer I'm not doing it myself. After an online pharmacy in the UK launched new DIY pap smear tests that screen for cervical-cancer causing HPV, medical professionals are cautioning women against them. But the reasoning is a little counterintuitive.

Some experts say young women should not test themselves because the tests have a pretty good chance of coming up positive. It gets more confusing. While the positive HPV-test will likely be correct thanks to the high-prevalence of HPV, these doctors say it's better for women not to know so the sexually-transmitted infection has a chance to clear up on its own. Thus, the problem is not with the DIY nature of the test, but with the fact that it would lead to women getting tested more regularly.

I followed the recent, and controversial, updated guidelines from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which suggest women wait two years between pap smears, so I'm not surprised by this advice. Still, it's hard to wrap my head around the less is more approach to preventative care. What do you think?

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Venus1 Venus1 7 years
Important issue: How does the DIY reliability compare? Suggest the doctors do the doctor stuff.
Bettye-Wayne Bettye-Wayne 7 years
Ladies, listen: there's a clinic near me does STD testing for $10. They asked me when my last pap was, and I was about 6 months overdue, so they threw it in for free. Gave me a free three month supply of birth control pills too! If you don't have insurance to cover gyno expenses, contact your county's Board of Health, they might be able to hook you up cheap. That being said, I would be too scared of messing it up: what if I swab the wrong place, and I get a false negative? I'm so paranoid when it comes to that sort of thing! I once went to the doctor once with an ingrown hair; I was sure it was an STI. The doctor laughed at me, because it was OBVIOUSLY an ingrown hair. I was so freaked out, I refused to leave until he swabbed it and tested it. I think I'll leave this to the professionals, too.
GlowingMoon GlowingMoon 7 years
As for myself, I like to stick to my yearly doctor's visit. The pap smear is only PART of the exam. There are other important components involved, too, -- a physical (examination of the breasts, ovaries, uterus, blood pressure, heart beat, breathing, etc), comprehensive blood work, etc. Also, it's an opportunity for me to discuss any questions I have with my doctor. This year, I plan to talk to my doctor about salt intake (last year, it was about alcohol :)). For me, I like the once a year check-up.
Pistil Pistil 7 years
Also DIY does sound like a terrible idea. I'll leave that to a professional, I don't mind that much.
Pistil Pistil 7 years
I think two years is adequate, at least when you're younger (and/or don't have any reason to be concerned about contracting new STIs). I've been going every six months for the last year and a half, had my first colposcopy (which was far more unpleasant than a pap smear), and it all seems really unnecessary since nothing serious has ever turned up, and I doubt it will in the next 6 months, but still I'll be back in June. I guess I could just refuse another appointment.
tlsgirl tlsgirl 7 years
Oh yeah, I mean I'll definitely still do the once every two years thing. I'm just happy I don't have to do it every year now. As an aside, those things are expensive! Even going to Planned Parenthood is definitely something I have to budget for without insurance.
chloe-bella chloe-bella 7 years
tlsgirl - You should probably still go in at least every 2 years. I had been in a monogomous relationship for over 3 years when I had an abnormal pap. The doctor said that you can have the virus for years before it actually manifests and shows up in a pap test, which totally caught me off guard. So just to be safe, I wouldn't swear them off completely.
tlsgirl tlsgirl 7 years
I'm with notinthemood. I'm young, healthy, and only having sex with one person. If that weren't the case, I probably would go in every year, but for now it's just an extra expense and extra uncomfortable appointment that I don't really need.
chloe-bella chloe-bella 7 years
I agree with notinthemood. Tres, I know it's hard to wrap your mind around it, but think of it this way: if they test positive and go to the doctor, the doctor is just going to tell them to come back in 6 months.
notinthemood notinthemood 7 years
I can see the reasoning behind not checking yourself... your body heals from an HPV infection on its own within two years. Most cases don't cause cervical cancer or any health problems. However, if you have an infection for more than two years, that is a decent indicator that something is wrong, as your immune system didn't fight it off in the two-year-window. So by going every two years and only returning for a yearly if you had an abnormal one, you save time, energy, money, worry, etc. And the doctors, instead of the usual "this is very common" speech, will have a reason to put you higher up on the priority scale. I can also imagine that the self-test would cause a bit of panic among users, who would then need to go to a doctor anyway. There's a bit of mystery surrounding HPV. For some people, especially if they're sexually active with multiple partners, will want to be tested more often and I think that's fine. But barring any special consideration, I think a healthy, monogamous person who doesn't change partners can get away with the test every two years.
skigurl skigurl 7 years
i'm not okay with waiting 2 years between paps for two reasons: 1)it helps you/forces you to get tested regularly without making a special appointment and 2) i wouldn't want to have cancer or a serious STD for 2 years without knowing...the earlier you catch it, the better i also take my yearly pap appointment as an opportunity to get my breasts checked by a professional as well...i don't like doing it at home (i try but i dont like it, and i dont think i'm doing a thorough job) so this gives me peace of mind no, paps aren't fun, but coming out of there knowing you have a clean bill of health is worth it, in my opinion
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