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Your Healthy Family: New cervical cancer screening guidelines

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Previous U.S. guidelines called for annual cervical screening using a pap test. Previous U.S. guidelines called for annual cervical screening using a pap test.

As we close out January, Cervical Health Awareness month it’s important to make sure you know about the new guidelines for cervical cancer screening.

Previous U.S. guidelines called for annual cervical screening using a pap test.  The newer guidelines provide more options based on a woman's age and individual circumstances which allows for more accurate results when used in combination with a traditional pap test.

Dr. Robert DeBernardo is an gynecologist with Cleveland Clinic who says, "We can be more accurate and predict, really what your risk is better and so that we don't need to trouble people with pap smears every single year which is really what we had been recommending up to this point."

Doctor DeBernardo also says that by using co-testing which means using the pap test and the viral screen together - doctors can be more confident in making the decision on what the next steps are in the event that pre-cancer is detected.

The new guidelines are also aimed at reducing the likelihood of over-testing and unnecessary procedures on women.  Anytime recommendations are updated, they can commonly cause a little confusion which is why it's so important that everyone relies on their health care providers to guide them about what plan is best.

Dr. DeBernardo adds, "One of the problems with the new guidelines is they're complicated. And so if you don't do the testing according to guidelines, then you may not be safely screened.  This is why I think seeing a gynecologist makes a ton of sense."

Which type testing is right for each woman is based on individual circumstances, so there really is no 'one size fits all' when it comes to screening.  Dr. DeBernardo says the bottom line is that women should make a point to see their gynecologist every year.

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