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New guidelines for women being tested for cervical cancer

October 22, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology has made a big change in its cervical cancer screening guidelines. It now says women between the ages of 30 and 65 should get Pap tests, accompanied by screening for the human papillomavirus only once every five years. The new guidelines also recommend Pap tests every three years for women between 21 and 29.

Internal medicine specialist Dr. John De Beixedon questions the move.

"There are women that should get checked annually," De Beixedon said. "There are woman that could get checked every five years, maybe three is the average. But it doesn't take three years for cancer to grow. It takes for cervical cancer six to 12 months."

Over the past 30 years, cervical cancer has declined more than 50 percent in the United States. Many experts credit increased screening.

Since 2009, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force decided to recommend mammograms every two years for women 50 and older. It's also recommended no more PSA testing for prostate cancer in healthy men. The concern is that too much testing leads to unnecessary biopsies, expense and patient anxiety.

But what about high risk patients? Will some be missed? Studies show prostate cancer hits African-American men especially hard.

"If you look at risk factors for people it differs from person to person," De Beixedon said. "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Unfortunately, that ounce of prevention is just as costly as the pound of cure, which makes it less interesting to insurers and less interesting to the government."

One suggestion De Beixedon has it to pay for these screening exams out of pocket. For many people, though, that is out of the question.

"We take a lot out of our paycheck every month to have insurance, and then for it to cover less and less but we're paying more and more, it doesn't make sense," said Debbie Ward of Altadena.

The overall advice is to do what you can to stay healthy. Eat well, don't smoke and get some exercise.