Tuesday, July 24, 2012

After several groups say Pap smears aren't needed every year, ob/gyns recommend an annual 'well-woman' visit

Though several groups have said women don't need a Pap smear every year, obstetricians and gynecologists still recommend an annual "well-woman" visit and annual pelvic exams for all females over 21.

These new recommendations by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists were published Monday. They come a few months after the American Cancer Society, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and other groups said most women only need a Pap smear every three years starting at age 21. After the age of 30, they can get them less often if they also get tests for the human papillomavirus, known to cause cervical and other cancers.

The visit "can be used to check blood pressure and weight, update immunizations, counsel patients on healthy lifestyles, screen for sexually transmitted infections and other health problems, perform breast exams and build relationships between doctors and patients," reports Kim Painter for USA Today.

But some critics question if these visits are just a way to make money. "We estimate that about $8 billion a year is spent on preventive yearly physicals of all kinds," said Ateev Mehrotra, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. "The question is whether we could spend those $8 billion more wisely." (Read more)

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