How often do you get a pap test? If you're getting one every year, you may be over-testing if you are not at high risk. You see, even the American Cancer Society admits that annual testing via a pap test is OVER-TESTING, and offers little benefit (if any at all).
But there are harms to screening more frequently. False positives are very common with cervical cancer screening, and more frequent screening leads to more frequent need for follow-up tests that can be invasive and have unwanted side effects, including problems related to future pregnancies and delivery, as well as increased anxiety and time away from work or home." -American Cancer Society
What is a pap test?
The pap test scrapes cells from a women's cervix and then checked for abnormalities. In more technical terms,
"The Papanicolaou test (also called Pap smear, Pap test, cervical smear, or smear test) is a method of cervical screening used to detect potentially pre-cancerous and cancerous processes in the Canal of the cervix (transformation zone) of the female reproductive system. Unusual findings are often followed up by more sensitive diagnostic procedures, and, if warranted, interventions that aim to prevent progression to cervical cancer. The test was invented by and named after the prominent Greek doctor Georgios Papanikolaou." -Wikipedia
What about the annual exam?
Not needing an annual pap test does not mean that you don't need to go in for an annual exam. There are still reasons to go per what is right for you and your doctor's recommendations. Hopefully not having an annual pap will allow MORE time with your doctor to address other concerns!
Pap test recommendations
According to the American Cancer Society, "Screening with the Pap test alone every 3 years is extremely safe and will decrease the number of false-positive results without leading to an increase in cancer or cancer deaths."
Why less testing?
Cervical cancer develops very slowly, usually taking about 10-20 years to develop, so testing for those people who are low-risk every 3 years still provides sufficient time to catch it early.
Are doctor's offices following suit?
Have you heard about the motion for less testing from your doctor? I hadn't. This makes me think that doctors are still recommending one every year as the "norm."
How do you feel about this? I'm excited to get one less test every year, what about you?