By Susan Wysocki and Susan Scanlan

It’s not surprising that women are confused about the recently changed recommendations for cancer screening and prevention. New guidelines from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) – the leading medical group that provides health care for women – say women should wait longer to begin cervical-cancer screening and that they should be screened less frequently. On the heels of similar changes to breast-cancer screening guidelines, it’s understandable that many women might see this as a step backward.

On the contrary, the new cervical-cancer screening recommendations reflect advances in our understanding of this disease and in tools now available to prevent it. More importantly, they present an opportunity to educate women about the significant opportunity we have to further prevent – if not eliminate – cervical cancer.

New ACOG screening guidelines recommend women should begin getting Pap tests at age 21 (as opposed to within three years of becoming sexually active) and that, from ages 21 to 29, most women should have Pap tests every two years instead of annually. Additionally, screening for women 30 and older with a history of normal Pap test results now moves to every three years.