Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Fewer Pap Smear Tests Due to Guidelines Led to Less STI Testing: Study

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Fewer Pap Smear Tests Due to Guidelines Led to Less STI Testing: Study

Article excerpt

STI testing drops with fewer Pap smears: study

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TORONTO - Young women in Ontario are being screened for sexually transmitted infections far less often since updated guidelines reduced the frequency of Pap tests for cervical cancer, a study suggests.

Researchers at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto found the guidelines, which were rewritten in 2012, reduced Pap smear rates by 60 per cent in the year after their introduction -- and that led to a 50 per cent drop in gonorrhea and chlamydia testing among women aged 15 to 24. Patients were also less likely to be screened for syphilis, hepatitis C and HIV.

Prior to 2012, women were advised to start cervical cancer screening within three years of becoming sexually active, followed by annual testing. After three normal Pap test results, subsequent screening was recommended every two or three years until age 70.

The updated guidelines by Cancer Care Ontario recommend starting Pap tests at age 21 for women who have been sexually active, with three-year screening intervals if test results are normal.

The advice differs slightly from guidelines by the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care, which recommends that routine Pap tests for women start at age 25 and continue every three years until age 70, when they can cease if a woman has had three successive negative tests in the previous 10 years.

"Historically, we know that Pap tests and STI screening are linked because they're often performed at the same time," said lead author Dr. Tali Bogler, a family physician at St. Mike's.

But because women aren't visiting their doctors as often for Pap smears, that's caused a drop in screening for STIs, she said Thursday, noting that chlamydia and gonorrhea are common among young women and incidence of those infections is on the rise.

In the last decade, chlamydia rates have jumped 72 per cent, while gonorrhea rates have gone up by more than 50 per cent.

The study, published Thursday in the journal Canadian Family Physician, tracked patient charts across five primary care sites at St. …

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