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Pap Test Changes

The incidence of death rates from cervical cancer in the U.S. has dropped almost 50 percent since the widespread use of Pap tests began in the early 1970s.

But, cervical cancer still remains the third most common gynecological cancer in America. And worldwide, it is the second most common cancer among women and the most common cause of death from a gynecologic cancer.

Given these statistics, The Early Show medical correspondent Dr. Emily Senay says it is still of the utmost importance to be diligent about getting pap smears. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), however, has issued new screening guidelines that say testing can start later and occur less often then was first recommended.

ACOG recommends the following:

  • Women should have their first pap by age 21 or three years after they first have intercourse.
  • Women of the age of 21 to 30 should have a pap every year, because the incidence of cancer in this age group is highest.
  • Women age 30 and up, who have had three negative paps in a row can drop to screening once every 2 to 3 years — unless they have HIV or a medical history that is cause for concern.
  • Women age 30 and up who have had a hysterectomy and removed cervix may discontinue screening all together.

    Dr. Senay says women should, however, still get yearly check-ups with the gynecologist.