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New recommendations for pap tests

October 22, 2012 3:05:07 PM PDT
New evidence is showing gynecologists that frequent pap smears for cervical cancer every year, even every two years, does not pick up more cancer. Now, the American college of obstetricians and gynecologists has announced new guidelines for testing.

"The new guidelines will reduce the need for this type of procedure unnecessarily," says Dr. Mark Einstein.

Einstein demonstrated a culposcopy, a follow-up procedure after an abnormal pap test. But some abnormal tests will go back to normal on their own. This, and other research has lead to the new recommendations.

"By doing more pap at increased frequency, we're not picking up more cancers, but we are doing more procedures, creating more anxiety in these young women," Dr.Einstein explains.

HPV testing for the Human Papilloma Virus, which can cause cervical cancer is included in the advisory.

For women 21 to 29, Pap test every three rather than every two years is advised. For women 30-65, it's a Pap test every three years, or a combined test for HPV and a pap every five years.

Dr. Einstein says the old way to do the pap test was to take the sample from the woman's cervix, spread it on a microscope slide and send it to the lab. The new method places the sample in a liquid, stirs it around, and the sample can be used for a pap test and for a test for HPV.

The new test lets doctors have both risk factors for cancer at hand, the HPV test and the pap, to reduce the need for, and anxiety of extra testing. 26 year old Emily Caraballo needed extra tests after a pap examination a few years ago.

"I was really nervous. I thought, 'Oh my God, I might have cancer'," she explains.

She had a pre-cancer removed and now has a yearly pap examination. Dr. Einstein feels the new recommendations will take time to filter down to doctors and patients.

Dr. Einstein says, "The Assosciation of OB GYN recommends that women have a yearly exam, but at some of those annual exams a woman may not get a pap test."

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