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New Guidelines & Women's Health

November 23, 2009, 6:10 PM by Kelli Grant

New Guidelines & Women's Health
If you're a woman, your next check-up at the doctor's office may be a bit confusing.  That's because in the last week, new guidelines have been recommended for mammograms and cervical cancer screenings. So what should you expect in the exam room?

New guidelines have left many women in the dark when it comes to their own health.

Recently, a government task force recommended that most women don't need mammograms in their 40s, rather in their 50s and not as frequent.

Sanford Clinic Chief Medical Officer Dr. Dan Heinemann says these new guidelines are a good reason to have a talk with your doctor.

“Make sure that your doctor understands your individual risks, your family's risk,” Heinemann said.

The government task force also says not only do women in their 40s not need a mammogram, self-breast exams are no good either and women shouldn't be taught to do them.

So can a 40-year-old woman still get a mammogram today?

“If you've not had one and you feel it's important, I think you need to talk to your physician. I think you'll still get a mammogram,” Heinemann said.

And now the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is revising their guidelines for cervical cancer screening. They recommend women start testing at 21 instead of three years after becoming sexually active and women under 30 should be screened every two years, rather than every year.

“We have a pretty good understanding that, if not all, nearly all cervical cancer probably comes from exposure to HPV. And if a woman is not sexually active, the chances of her getting exposure to that virus is very small,” Heinemann said.

Heinemann says these new guidelines don't mean a woman's annual exam will disappear, but what makes up that exam may change.

“I think in the months to come, we'll hopefully see a real dedicated effort to make sure we understand what these recommendations are all about and our payers, our providers and our patients will get a better understanding of what it means for them,” Heinemann said.

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