Cervical cancer: New screening guidelines

(CBS News) Wednesday, a government task force and other health groups recommended women, aged 21 to 65, get a Pap smear every three years, instead of every year.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force released the new guidelines based on new research that shows screening too frequently can lead to false alarms, unnecessary tests and procedures.

If women, aged 30 to 65, get a Pap smear and a test for HPV -- which causes most cervical cancers -- they can wait up to five years between tests. Cervical cancer screening can begin later, be performed less often and stop earlier than previously recommended.

Guidelines on cervical cancer tests present dilemma

Thursday on "CBS This Morning," Dr. Elizabeth Poyner, a gynecologist, surgeon and cancer specialist conceded that five years is a long time, but stressed that the new recommendations are based on solid and sound data.

"We better understand the biology, or the activity, of precancerous changes of the cervix," Poyner said. "We also now better understand the harms of overtreating early changes or early precancerous changes in the cervix which actually may be clinically insignificant and not progress into cancer."

Poyner stressed that women still need to have their yearly annual consultation with their gynecologist to go over general health issues and other cancer screenings and that testing decisions need to be based on an individual's personal health history.

To see the full report and interview, click on the video in the player above.