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Cervical Cancer Screening Guidelines Updated

ACOG now recommends biennial rather than annual screening for women 21 to 30

FRIDAY, Nov. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Women should not start getting routine cervical cancer tests until age 21, and then they should repeat them every two years instead of annually though age 30, according to new guidelines from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) published in Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Alan G. Waxman, M.D., of the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, and colleagues updated the ACOG recommendations after taking into account falling cervical cancer rates, the human papillomavirus vaccine, risk factors, and issues related to the testing and treatment of adolescent girls -- which may be unnecessary and have emotional and childbearing consequences.

Pulling back from the prior recommendation of annual screening, the updated ACOG recommendations now call for a first cervical cancer screening at age 21, and screenings every two years for women 21 to 30 with the standard Pap smear or liquid-based cytology. After 30, women with three consecutive negative tests can be re-screened every three years. However, testing frequency may be increased for women with risk factors, including HIV infection, immunosuppression, in utero exposure to diethylstilbestrol, or prior treatment for cervical intraepithelial neoplasia or cervical cancer. Cervical cancer screening can be halted at age 65 or 70 after three consecutive negative tests.

"The tradition of doing a Pap test every year has not been supported by recent scientific evidence," Waxman said in a statement. "A review of the evidence to date shows that screening at less frequent intervals prevents cervical cancer just as well, has decreased costs, and avoids unnecessary interventions that could be harmful."

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