Many women over the age of 65 no longer need to get an annual Pap smear in order to detect cervical cancer, the American Cancer Society, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force agree. For low-risk women in that age bracket, there is no additional benefit to routine yearly screening, reports Paula Span for The New York Times.
"In women who have had normal annual Pap tests for many years and are in monogamous relationships, the risk of cervical cancer is very low," said Dr. Sarah Feldman, a gynecologist oncologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.
However, there are some exceptions. If a woman received a Pap for reasons other than a routine screening, she should continue to be tested. She should have received three normal tests in the past decade; if not, she should get a Pap whether she's over 65 or not. And a woman should still have discussions with her doctor about any problems she might be having.
Though studies show the Pap test is not necessary for women over 65, it may be difficult for women, and their doctors, to agree to stop getting it. "People have gotten comfortable with that annual Pap smear," Feldman said. "They don't want it to stop." "It's a habit that might prove difficult to break," Span reports. (Read more)