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Exploring Pap Smear Effectiveness

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Schwartz says that all new screening in the U.S. focuses on the women receiving the Pap smear in the first place. He says it's important for women to remember that "the single largest group of women who get invasive cancer are women who don't have Pap smear screening, and this is true in every state."

So the next time a woman schedules her annual Pap smear, it may be a good idea to not only get to know the doctor who is performing the test, but also the device being used and the quality of the lab as well.

Vital Information:

  • A new British study shows that the most common device used in the U.S. to collect cervical cells for a Pap smear, the Ayre's spatula, may not be the best.
  • An extended-tip spatula may be a better choice, because it reaches further into the cervix and thus gathers more cells.
  • Critics of the study argue that many U.S. physicians use a combination of devices that does result in a reliable reading. Also, they say the problem is not how to perform a Pap smear, but rather convincing women to have the routine examination.
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