Millions of women may be unnecessarily screened for cervical cancer, according to a new study. According to the study , researchers say that routine Pap smears are unnecessary for women who have undergone complete hysterectomies for non-cancerous diseases. Since most of these women no longer have a cervix, they are no longer at risk for cervical cancer. A survey done by researchers on American women found that 69 percent of women who had undergone a hysterectomy reported having a Pap smear in the past three years.
Researchers also analyzed 10 years' worth of data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, an annual, population-based telephone survey of U.S. adults collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Researchers found that 22 million women in the United States over 18 have undergone hysterectomies, which translates into 21 percent of the population. After accounting for Pap smears before recent hysterectomies and hysterectomies that spared the cervix, the researchers say about 10 million women are still being screened unnecessarily.
Researchers conclude that the task force's recommendations either have not been heard or have been ignored by patients and doctors. They say it is possible women who have had a total hysterectomy may not be aware that they are no longer at risk for cervical cancer or they are so enthusiastic about cancer screening that they continue to have Pap smears.