Cervical cancer is a malignant tumour of the cervix, and is the third most commonly diagnosed gynaecological cancer in Australian Women. A staggering 80% of diagnoses occur in women who have never been screened or don’t have regular pap smears.
Since the creation of the National Cervical Screening Program in 1991, rates of Cervical cancer have halved. The Program has been renewed and will be implemented on 1st December 2017 along with a number of changes, which recognise the introduction of a vaccine against specific strains of the human papilloma virus (HPV) which is the main cause of most cervical cancers, as well as improved scientific evidence and technology.
It is a current recommendation that all women aged between 18 and 69 that have been sexually active have regular pap smears every two years. Once the National Cervical Screening Program is implemented in December 2017 this will change to a human papillomavirus (HPV) test every five years for women aged 25-74. The first Cervical Screening Test will be due two years after the previous Pap test. Read here for more detailed information about the changes.
HPV is the first stage in developing Cervical cancer, so the new Screening Test will test for any abnormal cell changes which normally takes a long time before it evolves into cancer, often more than 10 years.
Before December 2017 you should continue to go ahead with having a Pap smear if it is due before the changeover.
What Happens with Abnormal HPV Results under the Renewed Cervical Cancer Screening Program?
When the HPV test is positive, then a cervical smear will be processes in the laboratory using the Thin Prep specimen that was collected for the initial HPV screening. A second sample or examination is not required.
If this cervical smear shows an abnormality, then you will be referred to a gynaecologist for a more detailed examination of the cervix. This involves colposcopy which is an examination that uses a colposcope (essentially a microscope) to provide a magnified view of the cervix (the neck of the womb) to assess the severity or grade of the abnormality on the cervix.
For more information, read more about colposcopy by clicking here.