By Stephanie Stahl
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) —New federal guidelines for cervical cancer screenings were just released.
The Government Task Force says yearly pap tests are not necessary for most women. The new recommendation says a screening every three years could be extended to five years by adding an HPV screening, but this isn’t a one size fits all recommendation.
Twenty-four-year-old Avery Miller gets screened for cervical cancer, with a pap smear, every year.
“I started seeing a gynecologist when I was 18, and I’ve had a yearly pap ever since then,” said Avery.
But healthy women, like Avery, can be screened less often, according to the now finalized guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. It says women ages 21 to 65 only need to have a pap test every three years.
“It is as effective in reducing cancer deaths as annual screening, but we have substantially less false positive tests,” said Dr. Wanda Nicholson, of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.
Doctors say over-screening is leading to unnecessary testing and procedures that can increase complications.
“These screening recommendations are trying to balance the risks and the benefits,” said Amy Leader, with Jefferson’s Kimmel Cancer Center.
The Task Force also says low risk women 30 and over can get the pap test every five years if they get the HPV test at the same time. HPV, the human papillomavirus, is the main cause of cervical cancer.
“If you can add the HPV testing to your pap smear and it comes back normal, you can extend your screening to five years,” said Amy.
Doctors say the new recommendations for less frequent pap testing don’t mean that women should skip their regular annual checkups.
“They still want women to annually and routinely seek care, whether that’s from a family medicine physician, from a gynecologist, or whoever you feel comfortable routinely seeking care,” said Amy.
The new recommendation also says most women under the age of 21 or over 65 don’t need pap screenings.