The American Cancer Society says women who run a low risk of developing cervical cancer do not need to get Pap tests. The new guidelines say testing isn't necessary for young women who are not sexually active. Tests also are not needed for women 70 or older who have had normal Pap tests. And women who have had hysterectomies for non-cancer-related reasons do not need tests.
The guidelines say sexually active women should begin getting Pap tests within three years of the start of sexual activity. But they say these women should wait no later than age 21. The experts who wrote the new guidelines say the tests also detect non-cancerous lesions. This makes doctors do more tests that needlessly worry patients, cost money and sometimes cause harm, such as reduced fertility.
The society's last guidelines, issued in 1987, recommended just about all women at least 18 years old receive a Pap test yearly.