New Recommendations Say Annual Pap Tests are Unnecessary and Can Actually be Harmful

Pap smear test kit
The recommendations for the frequency of Pap tests have changed

If you’ve been good about getting a Pap smear annually, you might just have one less thing to do most years.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services, just issued new recommendations, according to ABC News.

No longer are once-a-year Pap screenings necessary. In fact, they can actually do more harm than good.

The new guidelines state that women between the ages of 21 and 29 should get one every three years, and women in good health between the ages of 30 and 65 need one only every five years if it’s combined with an HPV test. If you’re under the age of 21? You don’t need one at all — no matter your sexual history.

The new recommendations were published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, and are in tune with guidelines from the American Cancer Society and the American Society of Clinical Pathology.

While Pap smears are still seen as a critical part of the prevention of cervical cancer, the findings state that testing every three years “prevented just as many cervical cancer deaths as testing every year.” Testing annually, on the other hand, was more likely to result in false-positives, along with “unnecessary biopsies, which bring a risk of infection, pregnancy complications and infertility, and, of course, unnecessary stress.”

However, it should be noted that the lack of an annual Pap smear should not mean the lack of an annual visit with a gynecologist.

“With all these different recommendations, we run the risk of having people to start missing their Paps and make it seem like they’re not important enough,” Dr. Jacques Moritz, director of gynecology at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt in New York City, said in October, according to ABC News. “You still need your annual exam. That means, you need your breast and pelvic exam. You just don’t need the actual swabbing of the cervix every year.”

Photo credit: iStock


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