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Cervical Screening Tests

The way cervical screening occurs in Australia has changed. 80% of women who develop cervical cancer have never been screened or have not been screened regularly.

Most cervical cancer is preventable. In fact, early detection of changes to the cervix can lead to early treatment. This means better outcomes, better chances of survival.

Since December 2017, the changes to the way cervical screening is delivered in Australia are expected to save up to 30% more lives. The Pap test has been replaced with a Cervical Screening Test. In the past, the 2-yearly Pap test looked for changes in the cells of the cervix. The new test looks for the human papillomavirus (known as HPV) that causes nearly 99.7% of cervical cancers. HPV is a common virus transmitted through sexual activity.

The body normally clears the virus itself.

When it is a high-risk type and persistent, cells can change, and cervical cancer can develop. This can take more than 10 years.

The new test is more effective at detecting women at risk of developing cervical cancer by detecting this high-risk HPV. Even if you have had the HPV vaccine, you will need cervical screening because the vaccine does not protect you from all the types of HPV that cause cervical cancer, although it does protect you from the two highest risk type (HPV 16 and HPV 18).

You have the option of self-collection of the sample. If you have a high –risk HPV, your sample will be examined again to look for abnormal cells and your health care professional will discuss the results and next steps with you. The way your sample is collected by your health care professional won’t change.

If you don’t have HPV, you’ll only need to have this test every 5 years. This is because you are at very low risk of developing cervical cancer before your next test. The National Cancer Screening Register will invite you to have a Cervical Screening Test when you are next due by contacting you by mail.

So, if you’re aged between 25 and 74 years of age, ask your health care professional about the new Cervical Screening Test.

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