Most women think of a Pap smear as a necessary evil and therefore the news of changes to the cervical screening program will be a breath of fresh air.
Currently, all sexually active women between the ages of 18 and 70 are recommended to have Pap smears every 2 years. As of 1 May 2017, the new screening program will test women between the ages of 25 to 74 every 5 years for the presence of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) – even if they have received the HPV vaccine.
Why is screening changing?
Based on new evidence, improved technology, and the advent of the highly successful HPV vaccination program, we now know that an infection of cervical cells by the HPV virus is implicated in almost 100% of cervical cancer cases.
Since a persistent infection by the HPV virus is a pre-requisite to, and occurs before cells start to become abnormal (and before the development of cancer), the new screening will detect abnormalities earlier, rather than the current Pap smear, which looks for abnormal cells changes.
It is important to note that persistent HPV infections can cause abnormal cell changes that may lead to cervical cancer, however, this usually often takes more than 10 years.
How will the new screening test work?
The procedure for collecting the sample is the same as the procedure you’re already used to for a Pap smear. Dr Bailey will take a small sample of cells from your cervix and send it off to the pathology lab for examination.
What do I need to do between now and 1 May 2017?
If you are due for your regular Pap smear before 1 May 2017, please continue to attend your appointment as scheduled to ensure you are not at risk of developing cervical cancer. You will then be due for your first cervical screening test two years after your last Pap smear.
If you have any questions about the new Cervical Screening Program, please don’t hesitate to contact us at Hunter Women’s Health.