It used to be that women were given pap tests every year to screen for cervical cancer, but those tests also provided an annual opportunity for doctors to screen for infections such as chlamydia by taking separate samples from the vagina.
But after the guidelines for cervical cancer screening changed in 2012 – with women now recommended to have a Pap test every three years – an unintended consequence has been that thousands of women are no longer being screened for chlamydia, writes Dr. Michelle Naimer, an associate professor in University of Toronto's Faculty of Medicine and a family physician who is the clinical director of the Mount Sinai Academic Family Health Team.
Naimer points out in this week's Doctors’ Notes, a weekly column by members of the U of T Faculty of Medicine, that chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) worldwide and can now be detected by a simple urine test. Untreated, chlamydia can cause serious health problems in both men and women.
Doctors need to push for STI testing, Naimer argues. Primary care providers need to be more proactive and look for chances to offer screening and discuss safe sex practices. One way to do that, she writes, is to allow doctors’ offices to leave urine test containers out so patients can discreetly pick up a container during their appointment. Doctors can also make sure that reminders are added to electronic medical records to prompt them to ask patients if they'd like to be screened.