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Should You Have a Pap Smear?

URL: http://www.jewishjournal.com/nicejewishdoctor/item/should_you_have_a_pap_smear

Last week I lamented that we can prevent so few cancers. Cervical cancer screening is one of the success stories of prevention. Regular pap smears can drastically decrease the risk of cervical cancer and makes death from cervical cancer virtually unheard of.

Cervical cancer is a sexually transmitted disease, caused by human pappilomavirus (HPV). Pap smears check for telltale changes in the cervix that happen after HPV infection. Over many years these changes lead to cervical cancer.

But while potentially life-saving for some women, other women can not benefit from pap smears and should not have them. A study in this issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine interviewed physicians about the kinds of patients to whom they would recommend pap smears and found that many doctors perform pap smears on women for whom it is not helpful.

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