By Holley Nees - email
LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Women in their 20's can now have a pap smear every two years rather than annually, according to new guidelines put out by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
The news comes on the heels of a separate controversy over when regular mammograms should begin.
One East Texas doctor says the mammography recommendations were just suggestions, whereas the Pap smear guidelines are from some of the leaders in the ob/gyn field.
However, one doctor does have a serious concern that the new advice could lead some women to not come in for their yearly gynocology appointments altogether. It's tough to change a routine.
"One of our big concerns is people say if I only need a pap smear every other year, then I don't need to go to the gynocologist but every other year, or you know, in cases over 30 every three years," says Ob/Gyn Dr. Brian Glymph.
Glymph says although new guidelines suggest women in their 20s can get pap smears less often, it does not mean women should ignore their annual trip to the gynocologist.
"The annual exam would really be the same; it would just be without the specific pap test. You know, it would still allow us to screen for uteran masses, ovarian masses, and any concerns or problems you may be having," said Glymph.
And doctors say this news is different from the recent mammogram debate because early detection for breast cancer is not the same as early detection for cervical cancer.
"I'm fine with the recommendation of women not get screened with a pap smear every year. If they've been getting pap smears and they have been normal," Dr. Sid Roberts said.
"I think that was the emphasis behind these recommendations that cervical cancer is not like some of the more aggressive cancers, lung cancer, lymphoma, colon cancer," said Glymph.
He says cervical cancer is a slowly progressive disease.
"The good thing, if there is a good thing about cervical cancer is that it generally does not occur in a younger population. It gives you multiple chances to intervene," Glymph said.
But both doctors worry the news could make some patients think it's okay to repeatedly put off screenings.
"The bigger issue that we're concerned is that people start thinking well we only need to go every other year, then that becomes maybe every three years, every four years," Glymph said.
And when you wait too long, you run the risk of missing something.
"The women that we tend to see come in with cervical cancer, that's more aggressive haven't been screened," said Roberts.
It is important for women to talk with their ob/gyn. Because Roberts says your own doctor knows your risk factors and they are best able to give you the advice specific to your needs.