In 1991, the "organised approach to preventing cancer of the cervix" recommended Pap smears every two years for women aged 18–70 years who have ever been sexually active.
The two-year interval was a compromise step towards the scientifically supported three-year interval, as many influential groups were strongly attached to annual screening. When other components of the organised approach were in place, the policy was to be reviewed.
Since the safeguards in the "organised approach" have been proven effective, it is appropriate to change the policy to recommend a three-year interval. Increasing the interval would allow more resources to be allocated to enrolling women currently underscreened and to evaluating and improving the program.
The age of commencing smears could also be reconsidered to reflect the balance of potential benefits and harm in young women, for whom cancer is very rare but follow-up investigation common.
If consensus is not reached within the profession, an evidence-based decision may need to be made at the political level.
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