Counterpoint: Cervical Cancer Screening Guidelines-Approaching the Golden Age

American journal of epidemiology (Impact Factor: 4.98). 08/2013; 178(7). DOI: 10.1093/aje/kwt171
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Changes in screening guidelines that imply suppression of procedures once recommended are always controversial because of the perception that benefits are being curtailed. Prior to 2012, cervical cancer screening guidelines issued by US-based expert bodies differed in several decision areas, making clinicians essentially cherry-pick among recommendations. To some extent, this approach to screening practices also served to shield clinicians from litigation. It implied starting screening earlier, doing it more frequently, and stopping later in life than necessary. This state of affairs changed in 2012, when the most influential professional groups updated their cervical screening guidelines, and recommendations became essentially unified. All groups recommended that women older than 65 years of age discontinue cervical cancer screening on the basis of evidence that screening benefits in this age group were minor and far outweighed by harms. The guidelines are very specific about the exceptions, which ensure acceptable safety. It is expected that the new guidelines will permit less wasteful cervical screening, while fostering the opportunity to direct resources towards ensuring adequate coverage of high-risk women.

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