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Pap Test: Clearing Up Confusion about the Pap Test

January 26, 2013

Since the 1940s, the Pap test has been an invaluable tool in detecting cervical cancer in its earliest stages when it is highly treatable. But the American Cancer Society came out with revised guidelines as to who should have the Pap test and when. Those guidelines were not immediately adopted by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, creating a level of confusion among patients. UT Health’s gynecology expert, Dr. Ralph Turner, clears up some of that confusion in the latest post to HealthConnection.

Questions:

  1. The American Cancer Society and other medical groups came out with new guidelines for cervical cancer testing using the Pap test but the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists did not concur with the new recommendations until October 2012. Why the delay?
  2. Under the new guidelines, who should get a Pap test and how often should she get it?
  3. It’s also recommended now that women get a human papillomavirus, or HPV, test along with the Pap test. Why is the HPV screening important?
  4. What led to these recommended changes? Why were they necessary?
  5. One recommendation that did not change is related to women under the age of 21. The guideline is that these women should not be screened for cervical cancer or HPV. Given the increase in sexual activity in this age group, it would seem important that they be screened.
  6. Sixty percent of women in the U.S. who have had a total hysterectomy and who no longer have a cervix are still getting the Pap test which screens for cervical cancer. Why is this happening?
  7. Given that it is no longer recommended that women get a Pap test once a year, do women still need an annual visit with the doctor?
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