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Changes to Cervical Cancer Screenings Confuse Women

CancerDiseases and IllnessesScientific ResearchHealth OrganizationsCervical Cancer

As a firestorm rages over federal guidelines for mammograms, new recommendations for another women's cancer screening emerge.

Women are facing controversial,and confusing, changes in the guidelines for cancer screenings. First it was mammograms, now new recommendations for how often women should getting cervical screenings.

Two medical panels are saying women can wait to start getting screened for breast and cervical cancer -- and that they don't have to get those screenings as often. The panels say evidence shows less frequent testing has the same success rate in preventing cancer -- and also cuts down on costs and unnecessary procedures.

While some patients and doctors feel it's a riskier approach, Emory University's Dr. Sharmila Makhija says when it comes to cervical cancer screenings, "less is more."

"Actually I was kinda relieved to see these new guidelines!" said Dr. Makhija.

The panel of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says yearly pap tests are no longer necessary. It says women don't need their first cervical cancer screenings or pap tests, until the age of 21. Women 30 and younger, every 2 years, and women 30 and older, every 3.

The American Cancer Society estimates there will be more than 11,000 new cases of cervical cancer in the next year... but only a tiny number will be in girls younger than 21. That's good news according to the society's chief medical officer.

"Cancer control is a relatively new science. as that science evolves, doctors are going to be much more aware that the science exists and perhaps a little bit more conservative in their use of screening." While Dr. Brawley says doctors may now test less frequently for cervical cancer. he disagrees with the new recommendation that women get mammograms less often.

"The major problem in the United States is really more than half the people who should be getting that screening aren't getting any kind of screen. "

The American Cancer Society supports the changes to cervical screening guidelines and is updating its own recommendations for release in 2011.

Some doctors say if nothing else, the new guidelines should encourage more doctors and their patients to talk more.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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CancerDiseases and IllnessesScientific ResearchHealth OrganizationsCervical Cancer