BY Julie Bolcer
November 20 2009 11:35 AM ET
Following this week’s announcement of controversial guidelines that relax recommendations for women’s breast cancer screening, new guidelines on cervical cancer recommend delaying the date of a young woman’s first Pap test and screening less often.
The guidelines, which recommend that young women delay their first Pap test until age 21, are intended to lessen the potentially harmful overuse of the cervical cancer screening test, according to The New York Times.
“The advice, from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, is meant to decrease unnecessary testing and potentially harmful treatment, particularly in teenagers and young women,” reported the Times. “The group’s previous guidelines had recommended yearly testing for young women, starting within three years of their first sexual intercourse, but no later than age 21.”
Cheryl B. Iglesia, MD, who chaired the panel of obstetricians that developed the new cervical cancer screening guidelines, said the timing with the mammography recommendations was “coincidental.”
“She called the timing crazy, uncanny and ‘an unfortunate perfect storm,’ adding, ‘There’s no political agenda with regard to these recommendations,’” reported the Times.
The doctors based their new recommendations on the fact that human papillomavirus, the sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer, is fought off by most women’s immune systems. In cases where cancer does develop from HPV, it grows very slowly.