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New cervical cancer screening guidelines: No annual Pap smear

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DENVER -- New guidelines will give women choices for cervical cancer testing that depend on their age. Annual Pap tests were once recommended for all women, but now major medical groups have changed their recommendations from yearly to every 3 to 5 years.

“I think it is important for you to keep going to the doctor every time to make sure you’re okay and the only way you can figure that out is going to the doctor on a regular basis,” says Leticia Arredondo of Denver.

Many women we spoke with say, despite the new study, changing their habit of annual screenings feels risky.

“I go every year just because that’s what I’m taught. That’s what I’ve always done and I don’t feel comfortable changing it,” says another Denver woman who wanted to remain anonymous.

Major medical groups like the U.S. Preventative Task Force and The American Cancer Society say pap smears should begin at age 21 and no earlier, and should not be performed more often than every three years in healthy women.

The recommendation for women over the age of 30 is once every 5 years. The study also says women over age 65 can stop getting screened if they’ve previously had normal Pap smears, since their risk of getting cervical cancer is extremely low.

“It`s almost always caused by HPV, so if you test negative for that you are highly unlikely to get cervical cancer and because it`s such a slow growing cancer testing every year is probably too frequent,” says Dr Kristen Lund, OBGYN at Denver Health Medical Center.

However, putting more time in between your cervical cancer screenings does not excuse you from your annual physical exam.

“Just because we don`t do a Pap test does not excuse you from coming to see me every year because you are not just a cervix, you have a heart, lungs, ovaries and breasts and none of those things are texted with a Pap test.

According to medical experts, annual cancer screening could result in false positives which may lead to unnecessary procedures that can be harmful.

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