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Are Annual Exams Required for Detecting Cervical Cancer?

Are Annual Exams Required for Detecting Cervical Cancer?

Pap exams can protect women from cervical cancer by detecting it before it spreads, but is it needed annually?

There’s been a debate on whether women should have a Pap exam done every three years or annually. A lot of doctors hold their belief that a yearly exam is the best for screening for potential problems like cervical cancer. An exam is the primary way to detect it at its earlier stages. With a Pap test, doctors are able to see changes in the cervix, known as pre-cancers, and are able to treat or remove the abnormalities and actually prevent cancer. Since majority of women have Pap tests annually, the mortality rate for cervical cancer has dropped by 70 percent, making Pap screenings a great success.

Why the American Cancer Society Says Every Three Year is Enough

The American Cancer Society (ACS), and 25 other organizations that it works, with recommends women between 30 and 65 years old should receive co-tests, which are a combination of Pap exams and HPV tests, every three years. According to ACS, the cancer risks for women who get screenings every three years are very low. However, studies show that many doctors screen their patients more frequently. In fact, 65 percent to 85 percent of physicians recommend getting either annual Pap exams or HPV tests, even if patients received co-tests. Only 14 percent recommends the test every three years.

What Studies Are Saying About Pap Exams

To continue the argument of whether an annual or tri-annual Pap exam is required, studies show that women who receive exams every three years have low risk of cancer and that majority of cervical cancer patients haven’t received an exam in five years or more. About half of that number has never been screened in their lifetime. This is why ACS believes that Pap exams are only needed every three years. Some also say that having Pap exams too frequently offer little benefit and can even lead to unnecessary treatment.

At the end, there is one fact that is agreeable and that’s that Pap exams are needed to detect cervical cancer early on. However, the frequency is left up to the patient and their physician to decide. 

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