Pap smear test guidelines 2012 -- 2013

by Mollee Bauer

New pap smear guidelinesNew guidelines were just released in December 2012 from The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) – and supported by The American Cancer Society. They state that most women only need a Pap test, which screens for cervical cancer, every 3 to 5 years, rather than annually. However, there is a catch. If a woman is sexually active, they still recommend a yearly smear.

The reason the ACS and ACOG support these new guidelines is that there are two decades of research with conclusive proof that certain high-risk strains of HPV cause cervical cancer.

Scientists now know how HPV is transmitted, how few infected women develop cancer, and how slowly cancer develops. Because of the improved method of testing and collecting, new research and technology, the researchers are confident that getting regular, but less frequent, Pap tests is a safe option for women.

New Pap smear guidelines

• Pap smear tests should begin when a woman turns 21

bull; Women ages 21-29 should get screened every three years.

• Women age 30 and up can be screened every three years. If HPV (human papilloma virus) testing on the same Pap test specimen shows she is not a carrier of a high-risk HPV, the next Pap test can be done in five years.

• After age 65 or 70, most women don't need a Pap smear test.

• Women who have certain risk factors and health issues, regardless of age, may need more frequent screening. This includes women who have HIV/AIDS, are immunosuppressed, were exposed to diethylstilbestrol (DES), or have been treated for cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) or cervical cancer.

Talk to your OB/GYN about the frequency of screening that’s appropriate and comfortable for you. In addition to Pap smear tests, all women should have a wellness visit that includes:

• A general examination (height, weight, body mass index, blood pressure)

• A breast exam

• A pelvic exam

• A discussion of health and lifestyle issues and history; medications and supplements; current diet, exercise and sexual practices; tobacco, alcohol and other drug use; as well as stresses in your life that might be affecting your health

• Tests and screenings for cholesterol, blood sugar, sexually transmitted diseases, and a waist-circumference measurement every few years

Will you follow the new guidelines?

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.