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Many doctors do unneeded pap smears, study finds

New York Times, November 6, 2009

Many doctors are performing unnecessary Pap smears, ignoring guidelines issued by major medical organizations and adding to healthcare costs, a survey of physicians has found. Of 1,212 primary care doctors who responded to a survey about cervical cancer screening, only about one-fifth described practices that were consistently in line with the latest recommendations from groups including the American Cancer Society and the United States Preventive Services Task Force, the study found. Most had overused cervical cancer screening. A vast majority said they would recommend annual Pap smears for at least three years for an 18-year-old woman, who had recently become sexually active, which is consistent with the recommendations of major medical groups. But many of the doctors said they would also recommend the screening for a 35-year-old woman whose cervix had been removed, but who had no history of cancer; testing in that situation would be inconsistent with guidelines.