Say goodbye to annual Pap smears

March 5, 2013 in Medical Care, Member Stories, Women's care

(photo credit,

Every year since I’ve turned 18 I’ve had a Papanicolaou test, also known as a Pap smear, to screen for cervical cancer. And every year it’s the same story. The cold, uncomfortable test takes less than two minutes, and then I’m sent out of the doctor’s office and asked to make an appointment for the following year.

Our recent post on the regularity of physicals got me wondering how often it’s suggested that females get a Pap smear. According to my family doctor, Dr. Marilyn Lange, women should get a Pap smear annually.

“If you’re having multiple partners, then every year,” says Dr. Lange. “If you’re in a stable relationship, then every two years. That’s my opinion.”

However, while Dr. Lange is in favor of women getting a screening every one or two years depending on their sexual activity, updated reports are challenging the long-held notion of annual Pap smears. Recent and similar reports made by both the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) and the American Cancer Society (ACS) recommend that the regularity of the screenings one get correlates with age and risk factor.

Here are the guidelines:

  • Under 21: No Pap smear necessary, regardless of sexual activity.
  • 21-29: Pap smear every three years.
  • 30-65: Pap smear every three years, or a Pap smear and HPV test together every five years.
  • Over 65: No screening if there is no previous history of cervical cancer.

2 responses to Say goodbye to annual Pap smears

  1. Annual pap tests was always overkill which did nothing more than send the risk of a false positive and potentially harmful excess biopsy or over-treatment through the roof for NO additional benefit.
    Finland has had, since the 1960s, a 6-7 pap test program, 5 yearly from 30 to 60 and they have the lowest rates of cc in the world and refer far fewer women for biopsies etc. The Dutch have the same program, but will move with the evidence and shortly introduce a new program, scrapping population pap testing. The new program is 5 hrHPV primary tests offered at ages 30,35,40,50 and 60 (or self test using the Delphi Screener)…and ONLY the roughly 5% who are HPV+ and at risk will be offered a 5 yearly pap test. (presumably until they clear the virus) this will save more lives and spare huge numbers of women from a lifetime of unnecessary pap testing and the risk of over-treatment which can damage the cervix and lead to premature babies, miscarriages, c-sections etc
    Evidence based screening is designed to help and protect women, non-evidence based screen and excess harms women keeping profits for vested interests very high.
    All cancer screening is elective, I made an informed decision, as a low risk woman, more than 30 years ago not to screen. My risk of cc is near zero, the risks with testing very high. The lifetime risk of cc is 0.65%, it’s rare and always was and it was in natural decline before testing even started…while the lifetime risk of referral (almost all are false positives and over-treatment is a huge 77%)
    How could this possibly be justified or called good healthcare, it’s a bad deal for women and an example of bad medicine.
    The routine pelvic and breast exams promoted by American and Canadian doctors are also, not evidence based exams and are not recommended in many countries. There is no evidence of benefit with routine breast exams, but they lead to excess biopsies and the routine pelvic exam is not a screening test for ovarian cancer, is of poor clinical value and carries risk, even unnecessary surgery.
    Know what you’re agreeing to…informed decisions are the best decisions.
    Be careful with breast screening as well…before you agree to them, go to the Nordic Cochrane Institute’s website and read an unbiased summary of all of the evidence, “The risks and benefits of mammograms”. Ten years ago the NCI concluded they were of little benefit but lead to significant over-diagnosis.
    Delphi Bioscience provides information on HPV self testing.
    HPV Today, Edition 24, outlines the new Dutch program.

  2. More than 30 to 40 types of HPV are typically transmitted through sexual contact and infect the anogenital region. Some sexually transmitted HPV types may cause genital warts. Persistent infection with “high-risk” HPV types—different from the ones that cause skin warts—may progress to precancerous lesions and invasive cancer.`,`-

    Most current write-up produced by our own internet site http://www.healthwellnessbook.comcc

Leave a reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.