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New Guidelines for Cervical Cancer Tests

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The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says younger women can have the tests less frequently and still catch slow-growing cervical cancer.

The Associated Press reports the ACOG says women in their 20s can have a Pap smear every two years, instead of annually, and still effectively detect cancer. The move is not a major shift from previous recommendations, as doctors have been told for years to perform fewer Pap smears among women over 30, to cut back on unneeded care for women who are less at risk.

The new guidelines also recommend women start getting routine Pap smears at age 21. Previously, the ACOG had suggested women get their first Pap either within three years of their first sexual intercourse or at age 21.

While these recommendations do not seem as controversial, they come amid an at-times heated debate over when women should begin receiving regular mammograms to detect breast cancer.