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Bret Hanna
| Wrona DuBois, P.L.L.C.

For women, new guidelines for Pap tests to detect cervical cancer are age dependent as opposed to the former gold standard of one test per year for women over the age of 21. Several groups had been pushing for a protocol of Pap tests every three years for women between the ages of 21 and 65. But new test protocols issued by the American Cancer Society, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force and others suggest parameters that starting at age 30, women should be tested for the cancer-causing human papillomavirus (HPV) and have Pap tests every 5 years.

The recommendations do not require a 5 year interval for Pap tests, but suggest that women over 30 can stick with a 3 year interval and be safe. But, the guidelines suggest that if women choose a Pap test plus HPV combination test option and the results of both are negative, the time line can be pushed out to 5 years for the next cervical health test regimen. The reasoning is that certain strains of HPV cause most cervical cancer, but the infection must persist for years for it be precursor to cervical cancer.

For men, a new study of men in Europe offers insights into the value of PSA blood tests to screen for prostate cancers. Study results suggest that PSA blood tests every four years do cut the risk of death from prostate cancers, but the study also reveals that screening does not make a difference in the number of people who actually die from those cancers. Why? Prostate cancers grow slowly and most men die of something else first.

The problem is there is no good way to predict which prostate cancers will kill and those that won't. This problem is compounded by the fact that if cancer is detected with a PSA blood test, treatments can cause incontinence, impotence and other problems that seriously detract from a man's quality of life. Men should consult with their doctor and carefully consider a risk-benefit analysis to decide when and how often to have PSA blood tests.

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