Many doctors agree with new pap smear guidelines

Save Story
Leer en espaƱol

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

SALT LAKE CITY -- Two medical procedures once considered yearly necessities for women in several age groups aren't anymore. First it was mammograms, now health officials say getting pap smears too often can create problems in the future.

The changes go against everything women have been told for decades, and doctors are divided. Many disagree with the new recommendations for mammograms, but many agree with the new pap smear guideline.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has released new recommendations for cervical cancer tests. Panel members said cervical cancer cases have decreased in recent years and the disease grows so slowly that women can wait until they are 21 for a first exam.


Doctors say there are now too many test results with false positives.

"We're trying to prevent unnecessary procedures, such as biopsies of the cervix and particularly destructive procedures of the cervix, which can impact childbearing later," explained Dr. Howard T. Sharp, chief of Obstetrics and Gynecology at University Hospital.

The recommendations for a pap smear state that the tests are unnecessary for women under age 21. Those 21 through 29 should now have one every two years, and those 30 and older--if their tests have been normal--can now wait for a test every three years.

This announcement came days after a government task force issued new guidelines for fewer mammograms--guidelines that many doctors disagree with.

"I am angered. I am frustrated by these guidelines; and most of all, I'm trying to help patients negotiate through a lot of confusion," said Dr. Susan Drossman, a breast imaging specialist in New York City.

Sharp said most ob-gyns agree with the pap smear recommendations--which came from doctors, not a government panel. He said patients shouldn't let these new guidelines keep them away from an annual pelvic and breast exam. Everyone needs to talk with a health care provider that often, he said.

"It requires a face-to-face interaction between a physician and a patient," Sharp said.

If you have questions, Sharp advised that you speak with your doctor. Looking at your health history and your family history, he or she will be able to determine how often you will need a mammogram and a pap smear.


Most recent Utah stories

Related topics

Carole Mikita


    Get informative articles and interesting stories delivered to your inbox weekly. Subscribe to the Trending 5.
    By subscribing, you acknowledge and agree to's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

    KSL Weather Forecast