The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists now recommends that clinicians should not perform human papilloma virus (HPV) screening or cervical cancer screening (via “Pap” tests) in women younger than 21 years of age. Previous guidelines suggested that HPV screening and Pap tests could be administered to younger women. The recommendations were changed because scientists found that precancerous cells often regressed in adolescent women, meaning these tests may lead to unnecessary and, in some cases, harmful treatment.
Researchers funded by the Fertility and Infertility Branch assessed whether clinicians had actually stopped administering these tests among women younger than 21 after the new guidelines were issued.
Using records from a large private insurance company, researchers found that 77% of women younger than 21 received a Pap test as part of a checkup visit in 2008 and 2009. By December 2010, only 57% of young women received a Pap test as part of their checkup. HPV testing rates in young women did not change between 2008 and 2010 even though it was no longer recommended.
These data show that some clinicians adjusted their practices among young women according to the new guidelines, but Pap and HPV testing was still conducted often even after it was no longer recommended (PMID: 23727519).