In 2009, an estimated 11,270 new cases of cervical cancer were diagnosed in the US, and the disease caused over 4,000 deaths. The Pap test is a highly effective tool in detecting cervical cancer at its earliest and most treatable stages. In fact, regular cervical screening tests can actually find precancerous changes before they become dangerous and turn into cancer.
Getting regular, but less frequent, Pap tests is a safe option for many women, according to new evidence-based guidelines issued in December 2009 by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The College now recommends that Pap testing start at age 21 and that women ages 21-29 be screened every two years; women age 30 and older can be screened every three years. However, women with certain risk factors and health issues may need more frequent screening.
The College acknowledges that reducing the frequency of Pap tests may be met with resistance by many women, but the bottom line is that research has shown less frequent cervical screening to be just as effective in preventing cancer as annual screening. Consequently, overscreening for cervical cancer may actually do more harm than good and can lead to unnecessary treatment and future childbearing implications.
Click here to get the facts on cervical and other women’s cancers, including information about who is most at risk, how cancer can be prevented, available screenings and their recommended frequency, warning signs and symptoms, and how the cancer is treated.
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The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is the nation’s leading group of physicians providing health care for women. As a private, voluntary, nonprofit membership organization of approximately 53,000 members, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists strongly advocates for quality health care for women, maintains the highest standards of clinical practice and continuing education of its members, promotes patient education, and increases awareness among its members and the public of the changing issues facing women’s health care.