Clinicians doing Pap test too often on women

I find that most of my female patients either are not aware of or do not understand the national recommendations concerning pap smears. Now, there are reports that physicians are not using these new guidelines either.

The Los Angeles Times “Booster Shots” blog is reporting, “Despite a near-unanimous consensus among authorities that Pap smear testing for cervical cancer should be conducted only every three years, most physicians apparently prefer to do it at shorter intervals.”

And, according to a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine, “if you add in HPV screening, which makes the assays even more sensitive, even fewer doctors adhere to the recommended guidelines.”

The Time magazine “Wellness” blog reported that researchers from the CDC and the National Cancer Institute “asked more than 1,200 primary care physicians … what screening protocol they would recommend for 35-year-old patients with three different medical histories:

  • a woman had had no new sex partners in the previous five years and had three normal Pap results in a row;
  • a woman with no new sexual partners in the past five years and one normal Pap result; and
  • a woman who’d had a negative HPV test and a normal Pap test result previously that year.”

Investigators found that regarding the first scenario, “only 32 percent of doctors said they would wait three years before doing another Pap test,” HealthDay reported.

“Instead, an almost identical percentage said they would recommend the woman have her next Pap test in one year.”

As for the third situation, “only 19 percent of doctors said it would be OK to wait three years to do another screening, while 60 percent said they would continue to recommend annual screening.”

Adding to the issue of overtreatment is the fact that “in the minds of many women, cervical cancer screening and their annual gynecological appointment are one and the same,” CDC epidemiologist Dr. Mona Saraiya explained.

But, “as policy-makers try to cut healthcare costs, doctors worry that discouraging women from making regular gynecological appointments could mean fewer opportunities to screen them for other deadly diseases, such as breast and ovarian cancer,” the Orlando Sentinel reports.

“Waiting three years between Pap tests is too long, say some local healthcare professionals who have urged patients to be screened every year.”

My take?

The guidelines are evidence-based and can save women money.

Those professionals sticking with the “old time” yearly pap, may be doing this to pad their pockets and not benefit their patients.

And, most of my female patients are DELIGHTED to not have to have a pap smear as often.

One thought on “Clinicians doing Pap test too often on women

  • My doctor gave me what she said was my last pap smear. I am age sixty-five and the results were good. She said the guidelines said to stop around age sixty-five or seventy.

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