On the heels of an announcement by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force declaring that women should begin getting regular mammograms at age 50 rather than at 40, and that the frequency be reduced from annual to once every two years, another group of medical experts is saying women can see their gynecologists less frequently for Pap smears, too.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists announced Friday that young women can hold off until 21 before getting their first Pap smear and get them every two years through the rest of their 20s, instead of annually. (Previously, the group recommended that young women get a Pap smear three years after first having sex or age 21, whichever came earlier.)
The group also said that women 30 and older who have three consecutive normal Pap smears can be tested every three years and that after 65 or 70 women who’ve had three consecutive normal Pap smears and no abnormal results in 10 years can stop Pap tests altogether.
Dr. David Soper, the Chairman of ACOG’s Gynecology Practice Bulletin Committee, told NPR it’s “pure coincidence” that these recommendations were released just days after the new mammogram guidelines were announced. Soper says the changes have been in the works for years due to evolving scientific evidence that shows, for instance, the risks of cervical cancer developing in young women is quite low.
I hate visiting my gynecologist as much as the next woman, but all of these new guidelines have me worried. Are these recommendations really in our best interest or are doctors rationing out care? I don’t know. What are you thoughts?