Health officials recommend less pap smears, yearly OBGYN visits still a must

Getting a pap smear isn't anyone's idea of a good time. Although I am very strict about keeping my yearly gynecological visits, this is the part that I am always dreading. Now officials are saying there's a little bit less for me to cringe at, since they came out with new recommendations for pap smears for women.

Health officials are now saying that women ages 21-65 only need to get a pap test every three years and if you get an HPV test along with your pap test you can wait up to five years between pap smears once you are over 30 years old.

If you dread this part of the yearly appointment like I do, this may be good news. But is less testing actually going to leave you more vulnerable for cancer, since earlier detection may not happen?  


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Statistics show that cervical cancer in women went down, probably thanks to the yearly testing during the annual gyno exam. So if we're not doing these tests anymore, can the cancer numbers start rising again instead of declining? Probably not, explains gynecologic oncologist Dr. Elizabeth Poynor.

She tells "CBS This Morning" that the new recommendations are all based on real data and a better understanding of pre-cancerous lesions. She explains that recent studies show that there may actually be harm in over-treating early precancerous changes in the cervix, which may actually be clinically insignificant but were appearing on early pap tests.

Still, if a pap test appears abnormal, some women may want to get the yearly checkups anyway. The problem comes in with insurance companies, who may opt out of covering yearly pap tests after this new recommendation. Despite the new data, though, Dr. Elizabeth still stresses that yearly, annual exams (and talking to your doctor about your personal history) are the keys to staying healthy and cancer free.

It's important that women understand that they still need to have their yearly, annual consultation with their gynecologist to go over general health issues and other cancer screenings along with looking at their personal health history to make those decisions based on their personal health history.

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With this new recommendation, will you be getting a pap smear less or do you still want to be checked once a year for cervical cancer?

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