By Dr. Amy Schmidt

Did you know that the guidelines for cervical cancer screening changed in 2012? A Pap smear is a test of the cells of the cervix to check for cancer. The new guidelines changed the frequency of the testing as well as the method of testing. A pelvic exam is when a physician examines the organs in a woman’s body in and around the pelvis. This is done to look for abnormalities and disease. It is continued to be recommended that this exam be done every year.

Here is a summary of the new guidelines that you should know:

For women of normal risk, ages 21-29, it is recommended to have a Pap smear every three years, as long as they are normal.

Women ages 30-65 are recommended to have a Pap smear along with a human papilloma virus (HPV) test every five years, or alternatively, a Pap smear alone every three years, as long as they are normal.

Pap smears are not recommended for women under the age of 21, and may be discontinued at age 65, provided recent testing was normal.

The reason for this change is that evidence shows that more frequent testing does not improve the detection of cancer and significant pre-cancer, but does lead to unnecessary procedures and interventions, which results in more harm. Adding HPV testing to the Pap test improves screening, since evidence shows that virtually all cancers and pre-cancers of the cervix are associated with the acquisition of HPV. Research in this area is ongoing, so stay tuned for further updates.

Remember, if you have any concerns or think something isn’t quite right in your body, do not wait until your next annual appointment to contact your Women’s Health Specialists physician. We are here to answer your questions, educate you and support you through your wellness journey.

Give us a call at (920) 749-4000 to schedule your appointment today.