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Women May Be Able To Extend Time Between Pap Smears: New Government Recommendations
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Women May Be Able to Extend Time Between Pap Smears: New Government Recommendations

The US Preventitive Services Task Force has announced a number of new guidelines for women's health care in regards to the Pap smear and other screenings for cervical cancer and human papillomavirus (HPV). That task force is now saying that the majority of women ages thirty to sixty five can now extend their time between their Pap smear to as long as five years while younger women, ages twenty one to thirty should be screened every three years. The Task Force also recommended that women who are younger than twenty one or older than sixty five can skip the Pap smear altogether.

Dr. Michael LeFevre, the co-vice chair of the Task Force admits that there is a slight "trade off" in this practice which means that there might be a slight increase in the number of women who die from cancers that are not caught soon enough. Dr. LeFevre is also a professor of family and community medicine at the University of Missouri at Colombia.

According to the Panel, the recommendation was made after considering the number of additional tests that the Pap smear might cause, including treatment for lesions. But, other doctors are concerned that the Panel may not have asked the real patients how they felt about this recommendation. Many women asked about such a recommendation and if it was wise to go that long between these screening types. Others said that they were not worried about the treatment for the lesions and would rather have the peace of mind of knowing that they did not show abnormal signs of growth. Women who have had questionable results in the best would continue to be checked more frequently.

Other doctors are questioning whether recommending delays in the first Pap smear until age twenty one is wise as well. Many girls are sexually active well before that age and should have their first exam when they start discussing birth control options. Geriatric specialists are also asking why the panel is suggesting that women in their sixties stop getting Pap smears because many are still sexually active and may still be at risk for sexually transmitted diseases.

The panel's recommendations are similar in terms to those being released by three other entities including the American Cancer Society. Both recommend that women add the HPV screening to the exam when they go back. Cervical cancer is a relatively slow growing cancer, according to experts, making the five year recommendation realistic.


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