Recently, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists announced that women can forego cervical cancer screening until they are 21 years of age and, even then, only need screening every 2-3 years. Previously, the standard of care required Pap testing within three years after a woman started having vaginal intercourse in order to check for pre-cancerous cells within the cervix.
Many criticize the change in screening protocol. Some suggest that it will encourage failures to diagnose cancer and increase the potential for medical malpractice. Others condone the decision. According to Richard Waldman, M.D., a Syracuse ob/gyn “[t]hese guidelines are coming from an organization that is out to protect women. There was no cost savings taken into consideration.”
Pap test samples fall into two primary categories. The first, for no cell abnormalities, are reported as “negative for intraepithelial lesion or malignancy.” Samples with abnormalities are subdivided into several categories, including ASC (atypical squamous cells), AGC (atypical glandular cells), AIS (endocervical adenocarcinoma in situ), LSIL (low-grade squamous intraepithelial lesion), and HSIL (high-grade squamous intraepithelial lesion). Each category has a different prognosis.
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