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The recent changes to pap smear guidelines
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recently changed their name to The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. That is not all they changed.
They now recommend that women need not have a pap smear until the age of 21 or when they become sexually active, whichever comes first. My money is on the latter.
They also have changed that women with no history of previously abnormal pap smears under the age of 30 can choose to forgo having an annual exam, and have one every two years instead.
It is suggested that women over the age of 30 with three consecutive normal pap smears, need not have the exam done, but every three years.
ACOG is changing the guidelines, because of what they consider progress. In the last 30 years the rate of cervical cancer, has gone down by 50% by having pap screens.
That is amazing progress, and reiterates how important regular pap smears are.
However, like most aspects of life, there are downsides. I myself am not in agreement with the guideline change. I believe the annual tests are the best way, to remain healthy, and protect ourselves from disease.
I know many women myself who don’t get testing yearly, regularly, or at all, as it is.
Two of the main things that a pap smear tests for, is cervical cancer, and HPV or human papillomavirus. HPV has many strains, and some cause cervical cancer. ACOG has determined that HPV is slow to cause cervical cancer, so therefore yearly screening is not necessary.
Somehow, that does not make me feel better. At the time of this writing, 50% of sexually active people will contract HPV at some point. Most never, know they have it, and within several years, your immune system rids the virus from your body, on its own.
However, if you do not know you have it, and have multiple sexual partners, you are sharing the disease, possibly with people who are in the class of women, who do not get regular pap smears.
Not only that, but penetration does not even need to take place for you to contract HPV. Genital to genital contact is enough, as well as oral and anal. So that means, if you have teenagers, just “messing around”, they can be infected, as well.
There are not a lot of teens readily willing to tell their parents they are sexually active, so many parents would go by the guideline of not seeking a pap test until age 21. That is plenty of time for the disease to progress to cancer. Is there anybody feeling better about the new guidelines yet?
HPV is the number one most commonly contracted STD. I expect the rate of cervical cancer to go back up, eliminating the short lived excitement that it has gone down in the last 30 years.
Moreover, if you are in a monogamous relationship, you are not safe either. First off, most people are not forthcoming about their infidelity. Even if you think, it would never happen to you, I am here to tell you, from personal experience after 16 years of marriage, it can, and it does everyday.
In addition, the virus can live in your body dormant for years. That means, even if your partner is faithful, you may eventually become infected from a long ago sexual encounter, from a previous relationship, and not know it.
Does getting a pap smear every three years still sound like a good idea?
Even if you do not have health insurance, there are numerous programs across the country that provides free annual pap smears. Pap smears take only minutes, and are only slightly uncomfortable, if at all.
I say stick with the yearly testing. Even if the cervical cancer from HPV is slow growing, who wants to take that risk? I do not understand what slow growing has to do with it. Cancer is cancer. Preventable is preventable.
Make your appointment today!
For more information, I have included links below.
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