Why Should You Get the Test?
More than 99% of cervical cancers are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. Although cancers caused by HPV don’t show symptoms in the early stages of growth, getting regular screenings can detect precancerous changes or diagnose HPV-related health problems earlier. Early detection can greatly improve outlook and increase chances of survival.
Screening to prevent cervical cancer used to be done through the Pap smear, which involved collecting, staining and examining cells from the cervix. The Pap smear, however, can only detect about 50% of precancerous stages. In 2017, the Cervical Screening Test has replaced the Pap Test, based on recommendations by the Medical Services Advisory Committee.
What is the Cervical Screening Test?
The new Cervical Screening Test is a more accurate and effective way to look for evidence of HPV. According to the Australian Government Department of Health, there is evidence that the Cervical Screening test is more accurate, effective, and just as safe as a Pap Test. The new procedure is expected to protect up to 30% more women from cervical cancer.
The Cervical Screening Test feels the same as the Pap test. It differs only in the way it is stored and tested. While the Pap test looks for changes in the cells that were taken from the cervix, the Cervical Screening Test looks for signs of HPV in the cervix.
How Often is the Test Conducted?
Because of the effectiveness of the national vaccine program, the occurrence of HPV in younger women is now low. Hence, the new screening test is set to start at 25 years of age instead of 18.
The Pap test used to be done every 2 years. The new Cervical Screening Test is only done two years after your last Pap test and every 5 years thereafter if your results are normal. This interval is considered safe because it will take 10 to 15 years for cervical cancer to develop if exposed to the relevant HPV types. Of course, it is a different scenario if you are found positive with HPV. Being infected with HPV doesn't mean you have cancer, but your doctor may conduct more tests. Some strains of HPV are much more likely to cause cancer than others.
Should You Be Getting the Test?
If you are 25 to 74 years old and have a cervix and you've had sex even once, you should be getting the test. The HPV vaccine doesn't protect against all kinds of HPV, hence the need for regular Cervical Screening tests.
If you are showing the following symptoms (even when you’re below 25), please see your GP as soon as possible:
Light bleeding or spotting between periods
Periods that are longer and heavier than normal
Bleeding after intercourse or a pelvic examination
Pain during intercourse
Increased vaginal discharge with a strong odour.
Vaginal discharge tinged with blood
Unexplained, persistent pelvic and/or back pain
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Peregian Family Medical Centre
9/247 David Low Way, Peregian Beach QLD 4573