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Thank you for subscribing to Women's Health, an Avera eNewsletter that provides you with information to help you live a healthy lifestyle.  To learn more about what Avera can do to partner with you to improve your health, visit www.Avera.org.

To your health,

The Avera Staff


Because of the slow growth of cervical cancer, experts are now recommending new guidelines for the frequency of cervical screenings.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recently changed its guidelines for how often women need to have pap smears, which can detect precancerous lesions and other abnormalities on the cervix. The new guidelines recommend a first pap smear at age 21, one every two years for women in their 20s and one every three years for women ages 30 and older.

Doctors and medical professionals analyzed 10 years of medical data to come up with the new recommendations. However, this doesn't mean you should stop making annual medical appointments.

"As a patient, you need to see your doctor on a yearly basis for a breast and pelvic exam," says Dr. Kimberlee McKay, who specializes in obstetrics and gynecology at Avera McKennan in Sioux Falls, S.D. "What's changing is the pap smear recommendations, which is collection of cells from the cervix."

Previously, the guidelines were for women under 30 to receive pap smears annually and for women over 30 to receive them every three years after three consecutive clear tests. Previous recommendations called for women to receive their first pap smear at age 21 or within their first three years of being sexually active.

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Guidelines for pap smears have changed, but you should continue to have annual physical exams with your doctor. An annual exam can help diagnose health problems or prevent problems in the future.

An annual exam helps create a medical history for you that can be useful to monitor changes in your health from year to year. Based on your history and your doctor's observations during the exam, your doctor may be able to detect the likelihood of future health problems.

At annual physical exams, your doctor may ask questions about your exercise, eating and sleeping habits. Your doctor checks your height, weight, pulse, blood pressure and other vital signs. These could reveal illnesses for which you don't have symptoms, such as high blood pressure.

You may feel more comfortable with your doctor if you have regular annual exams. Then, when you do have a more specific problem, you'll be at ease speaking about the issue.

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In Great Health online archive.