Women are told to get a paper smear done every single year once they become s*xually active, and with good reason. Women sometimes go years without having one done, which could be dangerous as some abnormalities that could lead to cacer can go undetected for longer than they should.
Last year however the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force developed guidelines that women under the age of 21 do not need a pap smear, and they only need to be done every three years. These guidelines agreed with the American Cancer Society, The American Society for Clinical Pathology, and the American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology. So who is right?
Dr. Lisa Barroilhet is the lead on the study of these potentially cancerous abnormalities and when they should be caught. She states that she still agrees with the guidelines and that her findings should not be a reason to change them. She stated that when guidelines are changed, they need to be changed with every long term patient in mind, not just a small group.
Dr. Barroilhet and her researchers did a study on 242 women with adenocarcinoma in situ (AIS), which means they had abnormalities that could lead to cancer. These cancers however typically occur farther up in the cervix than the pap smear goes, so they aren’t a focus when making pap smear guidelines.
She found that most of the women in her study were tested for AIS because of other abnormalities or lesions that were found during their pap smear, so they had to have biopsies done. Sixteen of the seventeen women who were diagnosed with AIS before they were 21 years old were caught this way.
Rebecca Horvat, a pathologist at the University of Kansas Medical Center states that the cancers can take years to develop, and can easily be caught with a screening done every three years. She said the biggest challenge will be getting women who have a screening every year to move to every three.