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Survey - Many Doctors Perform Unnecessary Pap Smears

Posted by Chrissie Cole
Monday, November 09, 2009 10:44 PM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: Pap Smear, Women's Health, Cervical Cancer, HPV


IMAGE SOURCE: © Wikimedia Commons / cervical changes with HPV effect / author: Dr. Ed Uthman

A new survey of physicians finds, many doctors perform unnecessary pap smears, ignoring guidelines issued by major medical organizations, according to the New York Times.

More than 1,100 doctors including OBGYNs, internists and family physicians, were given four scenarios that involved hypothetical patients with different ages, sexual health and screening histories. The researchers asked the doctors how they would screen each patient for cervical cancer. Then they compared the doctors’ answers with the guidelines.

The researchers found less than one-quarter made Pap-test recommendations that were fully consistent with major guidelines by The American Cancer Society, U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and other medical groups. In fact, most had overused cervical cancer screening.

Overall, 22 percent of doctors were guideline-consistent in all four scenarios. Internists did best, with 27 percent consistently adhering to guidelines; among family and general practitioners that figure was 21 percent and only 16 percent among obstetrician/gynecologists.

So who should get a pap smear? The guidelines among different groups agree that women should start getting the test when they turn 21, or three years after they start having sex, whichever comes first. Women who have had the HPV vaccine should still undergo regular cervical cancer screening.

A pap smear is a test of a sample of cells taken from a woman’s cervix. The test is used to detect changes in the cells of the cervix that show cervical cancer or other conditions that may develop into cancer. The results are reviewed and analyzed by doctors and other medical professionals.

According to the most recent estimates from the American Cancer Society, about 11,270 new cases of invasive cervical cancer will be diagnosed in the United States. And 4,070 will die from it. However, if detected early, most cervical cancer can be curable.

Promising Cervical Cancer Drugs

According to new research, two medications currently on the market to treat breast cancer and osteoporosis, offered promising results to eliminate cervical cancer in animal studies, reports WebMD.

The two drugs also kept precancerous growths from becoming cancerous, says researcher Sang-Hyuk Chung, PhD, a research associate at the McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison. #

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