The Doctor Is In: Where new screening guidelines for women go wrong


I've been inundated by questions from patients and friends over the past few weeks regarding two recent recommendations concerning cancer screenings for women. The big worry that keeps coming up is "are we rationing women's health care?" That's because first, the U.S. Preventive Task Force on Nov. 16 recommended against routine mammography for women under 50 and called for regular screenings every other year instead of annually thereafter. The group also downplayed the usefulness of conducting regular breast self-exams.

A few days later, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) released new cervical cancer screening guidelines stating that women should begin having Pap tests at age 21, then every other year between 21 and 29. The previous recommendation had called for women to begin annual Pap tests a few years after their first sexual activity, or by 21, whichever comes first.