Advances in medical technology mean that the way pap smears are conducted is changing. A National Cervical Screening Program will replace the pap smear program, which is currently administered by individual states. The new program will begin on December 1, 2017.
Early detection is vital in the fight against cervical cancer, so it’s important to undergo the cervical screening test. Dr Ljiljana can answer any questions you might have about the changes to cervical screening.
What is the Cervical Screening Test?
The Cervical Screening Test replaces the pap smear and Medicare will now fund the new test rather than the pap smear. While the pap smear checked for abnormal cells that could become cancerous, the new test checks for the human papilloma virus.
What is the Purpose of the Cervical Screening Test?
The cervical screening test detects the presence of the human papilloma virus (HPV). There are many highly oncogenes types of HPV virus, but types 16 and 18 are the commonest. In most cases, HPV infections clear up on their own, but persistent infections can sometimes cause cervical abnormalities that can lead to cancer of the cervix.
Who Is Eligible for the Cervical Screening Test?
Women between the ages of 25 and 74 who have not participated in screening will receive an invitation to undergo the test.
Women under 25 who are in a higher risk category will also be eligible for the test.
The National Screening Register will send an invitation to women who are overdue for cervical screening.
When Should the Test Take Place?
If your pap smear falls due before the new program begins, all you need to do is have your pap smear as usual with your GP. The new test will take place the next time your pap smear would have been due.
Does the HPV Vaccination Mean You Don’t Need the Test?
Even if you have had a vaccination against HPV you should still have the test. The vaccination doesn’t cover all types of HPV or completely eliminate the risk of cancer.
How Is the Test Conducted?
The cervical screening test involves collecting a small sample of cells from the cervix (the same procedure as a pap smear). The sample is sent to a pathology laboratory for analysis.
How Does the Screening Program work?
Women are eligible to take the new test two years after their last pap smear. If the test comes back negative for HPV, the next test will be due in five years’ time.
Each woman who undergoes the test will be assigned a risk category of low, medium or high. For those in a higher risk category, screening may take place more frequently or additional tests may be necessary. Some of the risk factors include:
• A positive HPV test
• Unexplained bleeding in post-menopausal women
• Unexplained pain or bleeding after sex
What to Expect After a Positive Result
If you have a positive result for HPV, Dr Ljiljana may offer an additional test for greater accuracy (2). She may also recommend that you undergo a colposcopy procedure, where she will examine your cervix for abnormalities and may take a small sample of tissue for testing.
If you would like to know more about the National Cervical Screening Program or have questions about the new test, please call us or use the contact form in our Contact Us section. Dr Ljiljana can answer your questions or discuss any concerns you have.