Study shows US women get too many Pap tests

A new study from America's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals that many American women are getting too many unnecessary Pap tests, the screening for cervical cancer.

A study published August 18 in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that many doctors are recommending annual Pap tests, even though guidelines in both the US and UK suggest that women over 30 years old and at average risk for cervical cancer wait at least three years between negative tests.

Researchers noted that over-screening adds up to extra costs, more hassle for women (arranging child care and/or taking time off work for doctor's appointments), and an increased risk of unnecessary treatment for false-positive test results, with no benefit to women in detecting more cancers.

Mark H. Einstein, MD, a gynecologic oncologist in New York City told WebMD News that "there is quite a bit of over-screening in women in the US, which ultimately leads to over-management and over-treatment."

Also the researchers stated that about 51 percent of doctors in their study ordered a recommended co-test for the human papilloma virus (HPV), which is a common cause of cervical cancer, in addition to a Pap test.

"If only half are using the co-test, there is a lack of understanding about the guidelines," says study researcher Katherine Roland, a behavioral scientist at the CDC in a statement. "Women should discuss with their provider whether they are eligible for extended intervals between testing or not based on the type of test that is ordered and their results."

The new findings appear in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

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