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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
NEW MEXICO: Local Docs See Reluctance to End Annual Pap Tests
Amanda Schoenberg
January 12, 2012
Albuquerque Journal (01.09.12) - Thursday, January 12, 2012

With recommendations shifting away from annual Pap testing, some doctors worry that women will skip their annual check- ups, too. The wellness visit has to be reframed, said Dr. Susan Baum, medical director and epidemiologist with the New Mexico Department of Health's Chronic Disease Prevention & Control Bureau.

"There are so many other ways you can use that time. It's not just about your breast and your cervix," Baum said. Doctors also can address health concerns such as contraception, STDs, smoking, and drinking.

"The annual Pap test is dead," said Dr. Alan Waxman, an OB/GYN professor at the University of New Mexico's School of Medicine, and the lead author of 2009 American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology guidelines that call for Pap testing every two years. "What we're trying to do is use scientifically based recommendations that avoid over-screening and over-treatment." The US Preventive Services Task Force in October announced draft guidelines recommending initially having Pap tests at least every three years, with the first within three years of sexual activity onset or age 21 (whichever is first).

"If their Pap smears are the sole driving force, then does their general health care kind of go out the window?" asked Dr. Kiley Manetta, an OB/GYN at Presbyterian Medical Group. She prefers a case-by-case approach and endorses annual testing for women ages 20-30. If a doctor is already doing a pelvic exam, it is worth doing a Pap, she said.

Final guidelines are expected this year. New Mexico's early detection program offers free cervical screening every two years to low-income women ages 30-64 without insurance. After three consecutive normal results, tests are every three years. Testing policies will not change until the federal guidelines are confirmed, Baum said. For more information, telephone 1- 877-852-2585.