Cytotechnologist Peggy Smith believes an uncommonly used Pap smear saved her from developing advanced cervical cancer.
For the past two years, an improved Pap smear known as ThinPrep has been on the market, but is used only 5 to 8 percent of the time by gynecologists.
In Smith’s case, ThinPrep was able to detect cancerous cells that other tests would have missed. In fact, top health regulators in the U.S. government have labeled ThinPrep “significantly more effective” than standard Pap smears. However, the test costs between $15 and $20 more than standard Pap smears, and many insurance companies refuse to cover it.
“I am very concerned. . .that there will be two standards of care, said Judith DeSarno of the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association. “For those of us with good private insurance plans, this will become the standard. For poorer women, it won’t.”
Pap smears have already worked to decline cervical cancer deaths by 70 percent. Still, 15 to 20 percent of problems go unnoticed.