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Most Doctors Giving Pap Test Too Often
Date:6/14/2010

But that doesn't mean women should skip gynecological exam, experts say

MONDAY, June 14 (HealthDay News) -- Doctors may be giving the Pap test too often to women at low risk of cervical cancer, new research finds.

Guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, the American Cancer Society and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) now recommend that women over age 30 who've had three normal Pap tests wait three years before getting another test. Pap tests, or smears, look for abnormal cells that can be a sign of cervical cancer.

But a survey of about 1,200 primary care doctors, conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that fewer than one-third of doctors abide by those recommendations and instead are recommending more frequent screening.

Given the hypothetical situation of a 35-year-old woman with no new sex partners and three normal Pap tests in a row, only 32 percent of doctors said they would wait three years before doing another Pap test, the study found. Instead, an almost identical percentage said they would recommend the woman have her next Pap test in one year.

The American Cancer Society and ACOG also recommend that a woman over 30 who has had a normal Pap and negative (normal) human papillomavirus (HPV) test can extend screening to three years, according to the study. (The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has not issued HPV test guidelines).

While most women who contract HPV clear the virus on their own, a small number will develop abnormal cells that can become cancerous, researchers said.

When doctors were asked about that same 35-year-old woman this time having one normal Pap and one negative HPV test, 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 recommended annual screening.

The study is published in the Ju
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