October 20, 2011
Task Force Recommends Women Receive Pap Smears Every 3 Years
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) said healthy women between the ages of 21 to 65 should only receive a Pap smear every three years.
The medical panel said it still did not have enough evidence to see the health benefits and harms of HPV testing in women older than 30.
The panel maintained that a Pap smear test in women between 21 and 65 years of age "substantially" reduces the number of cervical cancer cases and deaths.
The panel is highly influential in setting the tone for primary care practice.
The USPSTF must weigh the potential benefits of early detection of disease through screenings against the potential harms to healthy patients who may be subjected unnecessarily to more invasive procedures or side-effects.
The services recommended by USPSTF would have to be covered by insurance companies with no co-pays or deductibles under President Barack Obama's healthcare overhaul.
The new recommendations coincide with most of the panel's 2003 recommendations. The only difference is the older guidelines recommended screening begin within three years of becoming sexually active, or at the age of 21.
Doctors now say there is no need to begin regular screening before the age of 21.
The USPSTF discouraged regular Pap screening among teenagers as well, which is consistent with the recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
There are about 12,000 U.S. women every year who are diagnosed with cervical cancer and a third of them die from it.
HPV is the most common cause of such cancer and it predominantly strikes in middle-aged women.
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