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Annual Pap Tests Often Ordered But Unneeded: Study
Date:8/18/2011

By Kathleen Doheny
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Aug. 18 (HealthDay News) -- Many doctors continue to recommend annual screening for cervical cancer, even though current guidelines say some women can wait much longer between tests.

Those are the findings of a new study by Katherine Roland, a behavioral scientist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"These findings are in conflict with the guidelines," Roland said.

The downsides of too-frequent testing, she said, include excess costs, pain and the inconvenience of having to visit the doctor more often than necessary.

For the study, published online Aug. 18 in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, Roland evaluated data from two national surveys from 2006 and found that the majority of health care providers still advised annual screenings, even when test results and a woman's history suggested it wasn't needed.

Her team also reviewed responses from 376 private office-based health care providers and 216 providers from hospitals and outpatient facilities.

Under cervical cancer screening guidelines issued by the American Cancer Society in 2002 and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in 2003, women aged 30 or older should have both a Pap test, also known as a Pap smear, and a human papillomavirus (HPV) test, also called an HPV co-test. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection, and certain types of HPV can cause cervical cancer.

If the results of both tests are normal, a woman can wait three years for her next Pap test, which looks for signs of cancer in cells from a woman's cervix.

Roland presented three scenarios to the doctors and other health care providers, each involving a woman between 30 and 60 years old with a current normal Pap test. In one vignette, she had no current HPV test result and a history of two normal Pap tests. In a second, she had a current ne
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