Panel Issues New Cervical Cancer Screening Guidelines

11.20.09 | FL News Team

A panel of women's health experts is issuing new guidelines for cervical cancer screening in the U.S. Doctors with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists now say women should wait until age 21 to get their first Pap smear. They are also urging women under 30 to get screened every two years, rather than annually. Women 30 and older can get a Pap smear every three years. The new guidelines are based on scientific data that shows overdiagnosing very young women after an abnormal Pap smear can do more harm than good. Cervical cancer grows slowly and is usually caused by the human papillomavirus, or HPV. While it is common in women and men under 21, cervical cancer cases in that age group are rare. Meanwhile, studies show unnecessary treatment of young women and teen girls can lead to complications with pregnancies down the line, such as increasing the risk of preterm labor. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists stresses it is still important for women to get regular cervical cancer screenings even though the guidelines have changed.