NP Answers your FAQ: WHAT ARE THE NEW GUIDELINES FOR PAP AND STI TESTING?

 There are some changes in testing recommendations for the annual women’s wellness visit that are approved by ACS (American Cancer Society) and ACOG (American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology). 

WHAT HAS NOT CHANGED?  

All young women who have ever been sexually active need annual testing for sexually transmitted infections (STI’s) which involves a vaginal exam by a medical clinician. By age 21, women who have not been sexually active are recommended to have their first pelvic examination. Statistics show that young women are at the highest risk for contracting STI’s, like Chlamydia, which can cause illness and infertility if not treated properly (with antibiotics) and in a timely manner. These infections often are present without symptoms of vaginal discharge or pain, so screening tests are necessary. 

WHAT HAS CHANGED?   

A woman’s first PAP test in now recommended at age 21 or within 3 years after she becomes sexually active, whichever occurs first.   The PAP smear is a screening test for cervical cancer, a cancer caused by longstanding persistent infection with the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). This virus is sexually transmitted and is usually transient, with most infections being cleared by the woman’s own immune system in 6-24 months.     

Cervical cancer occurs only in the rare case an HPV infection becomes persistent and does not get treated and resolve. The peak occurrence of HPV infection is in women in their early 20’s and the peak occurrence of cervical cancer is 15 years later, in the 4th or 5th decade of life. Delaying cervical cancer screening 2-3 years after initiating first sexual intercourse, allows these transient HPV infections and minor associated cell changes to resolve, sparing the woman stressful testing and treatment. (Adapted from University of Maryland)   

Our clinic will be starting the FPACT program next week,  Feb 11, 2008. This program provides no-cost family planning services to low-income men and women, including teens.  Family PACT provides access to family planning services  as well as education, counseling and treatment to protect your reproductive health. If you are interested in finding out more about the FPACT program, please call Student Health and Counseling Services at (760) 750-4915 to schedule an appointment with our FPACT coordinator.   

Health promotion and disease prevention  is an important part of our service credo. Preventive services include offering Gardisil vaccine to eligible students. Gardisil is a vaccine that helps protect against diseases caused be the (4) most common types of HPV. Gardisil is a series of (3) immunizations given over a 6-month period and has been on the market for women age 26 and under for over a year. Studies on males will be completed in 2008. We will notify our students when Gardisil is available for men.  

If you have questions or concerns about any of the information above, please call our clinic to schedule an appointment with one of our medical providers, our Health Educator or our FPACT coordinator.

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