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Change for Cervical Screenings
Because of the slow growth of cervical
cancer, experts are now recommending new
guidelines for the frequency of cervical
The American College of
Obstetricians and Gynecologists recently changed
its guidelines for how often women need to have
pap smears, which can detect precancerous
lesions and other abnormalities on the cervix.
The new guidelines recommend a first pap smear
at age 21, one every two years for women in
their 20s and one every three years for women
ages 30 and older.
Doctors and medical
professionals analyzed 10 years of medical data
to come up with the new recommendations.
However, this doesn't mean you should stop
making annual medical appointments.
patient, you need to see your doctor on a yearly
basis for a breast and pelvic exam," says Dr.
Kimberlee McKay, who specializes in obstetrics
and gynecology at Avera McKennan in Sioux Falls,
S.D. "What's changing is the pap smear
recommendations, which is collection of cells
from the cervix."
guidelines were for women under 30 to receive
pap smears annually and for women over 30 to
receive them every three years after three
consecutive clear tests. Previous
recommendations called for women to receive
their first pap smear at age 21 or within their
first three years of being sexually
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Annual Physical Exams Matter
Guidelines for pap smears have changed, but
you should continue to have annual physical
exams with your doctor. An annual exam can help
diagnose health problems or prevent problems in
An annual exam helps create
a medical history for you that can be useful to
monitor changes in your health from year to
year. Based on your history and your doctor's
observations during the exam, your doctor may be
able to detect the likelihood of future health
At annual physical exams, your
doctor may ask questions about your exercise,
eating and sleeping habits. Your doctor checks
your height, weight, pulse, blood pressure and
other vital signs. These could reveal illnesses
for which you don't have symptoms, such as high
You may feel more
comfortable with your doctor if you have regular
annual exams. Then, when you do have a more
specific problem, you'll be at ease speaking
about the issue.
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