For decades, women between the ages of 21 and 69 were advised to get annual screening exams for cervical cancer. In 2009, however, accumulating scientific evidence led major guideline groups to agree on a new recommendation that women be screened less frequently: every three years rather than annually.
Despite the revised guidelines, about half of the obstetrician-gynecologists surveyed in a recent study said they continue to provide annual exams an outdated practice that may be more harmful than helpful, said Drs. Russell Harris and Stacey Sheridan of the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
"Screening is not the unqualified good that we have advertised it to be," they wrote in an editorial titled, "The Times They (May Be) A-Changin': Too Much Screening is a Health Problem." The editorial accompanied a research study reviewing physician practices around cervical-cancer screening and vaccination for human papilloma virus (HPV), which has been linked to cervical cancer.
The study, "Physicians Slow to Implement HPV Vaccination and Cervical Screening Guidelines," was published July 9 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
"Screening for cervical cancer and other cancers such as breast and prostate, has clear potential for harms as well as benefits, and these must be carefully weighed before a rational decision about screening can be made," wrote Harris and Sheridan, who are professor and assistant professor of medicine, respectively, at UNC's School of Medicine. They also hold adjunct appointments at UNC's Gillings School of Global Public Health.
The study noted physicians said they were comfortable with longer testing intervals, but were concerned their patients might not come in for annual check-ups if Pap tests, the screening test for cervical cancer, were not offered. The problem, Harris said, is that annual Pap tests produce mor
|Contact: Kathy Neal|
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill