A BIG change in cervical cancer screening is on the way in Australia.
Starting from May 1, 2017, a new and different screening test will replace the present Pap test – screening will start from age 25 and will be conducted only every five years, depending on the result.
Cervical screening will involve testing for human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes most cases of cervical cancer.
Instead of detecting pre-|cancerous cervical changes using a Pap smear, HPV testing will allow for early identification of women who are at higher risk of developing pre-cancerous changes and cervical cancer so they can be monitored more closely and treated when necessary.
While the test will change, the method for collecting a cervical tissue sample will not – a vaginal examination and cervical swab will still be required.
The new test will be government-subsidised on the Medicare Benefits Schedule from May 2017.
It will be welcome news for many women that soon those who have a negative HPV test result will need cervical screening only every five years.
However, it is important for women to be aware that being vaccinated for HPV does not exclude them from the program, as the vaccine does not protect against all the types of HPV that can cause cervical cancer.
For those women who have not attended cervical screening regularly, or ever, they will have the option of self-collecting a vaginal sample.
Most importantly, until the new program starts in May 2017, it is business as usual and women still need to have their regular two-yearly Pap smear if they are aged between 18 and 69.
Remember to ask your health professional any questions you have in the lead-up to the change.