Medical Groups Release New Cervical Screening Guidance

Increased Interval Does Not Supersede Need for Annual Well-Woman Visits

March 14, 2012

Washington, DC -- The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) and The American Cancer Society (ACS), The American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology (ASCCP), and The American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) today issued separate recommendations in support of increasing the interval between cervical cancer screenings to five years for many women 30 and older. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (The College) is currently reviewing the new guidelines and the data used to develop them.

The College has long supported moving away from annual Pap testing, and the USPSTF and ACS/ASCCP/ASCP recommendations are a step further in that direction. The College currently recommends screening starting at age 21, every two years for most women under age 30, and every three years for women 30 and older who have three negative prior screenings, and cessation of cervical cancer screening at age 65 or 70, depending on a woman’s screening history. Women age 30 or older may be tested with cervical cytology alone or with cytology along with human papillomavirus (HPV) testing.

“Women may be worried that less frequent screening is detrimental to their overall health care needs, but this is not the case. Over-screening can lead to unnecessary treatment and could contribute to negative outcomes, such as preterm birth, in the future,” said Gerald Joseph, MD, The College’s Vice President of Practice Activities. “Every test has risks and benefits. As with all of our recommendations, we will evaluate the available data—including that presented in the two new reports—to determine ob-gyn practice guidelines that provide the best preventive care and treatment protocol for our patients.

“Remember, there’s more to women’s health than your Pap test, and it’s still important to visit your ob-gyn yearly for a comprehensive well-woman visit,” said Dr. Joseph. “This is the best way for your doctor to establish a baseline about your health. It’s also when any new or ongoing health problems can be detected and treated and future problems can be prevented.” During a typical well-woman visit, ob-gyns assess current health status, nutrition, physical activity, sexual practices, contraception needs, and tobacco, alcohol, and drug use. The standard physical exam also includes height, weight, body mass index (BMI), and blood pressure. Annual breast and abdominal exams begin at age 19 and pelvic exams at 21.

For more information on the well-woman visit, click here.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (The College), a 501(c)(3) organization, is the nation’s leading group of physicians providing health care for women. As a private, voluntary, nonprofit membership organization of approximately 55,000 members, The College strongly advocates for quality health care for women, maintains the highest standards of clinical practice and continuing education of its members, promotes patient education, and increases awareness among its members and the public of the changing issues facing women’s health care. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), a 501(c)(6) organization, is its companion organization.


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