You may be aware that the Pap test has been replaced with a Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) test, or Cervical Screening Test. HPV testing is a more sensitive and specific way of preventing cervical cancer. That means, screening is much less likely to miss an early cancer of the cervix. Good news ladies!
Let me explain…
Pap Test for Cervical Cancer – now CST
We have known for many years that Pap testing can detect changes on the surface of the cervix (the opening to the womb). If these changes are allowed to progress over time (10 years on average) they can lead to cancer.
Advances in medical technology have enabled us to understand that 99% of cervical cancer is caused by certain strains of the HPV virus. So, instead of just looking for cell changes, we can now test for the virus that causes those changes.
Cervical screening tests (CST) will be offered:
- For women aged between 25 and 74 years
- women who were sexually active before they were eligible for the vaccine (14 years of age), are able to have one HPV test between the ages of 20 and 24 years funded on the PBS
- Every five years instead of every two years.
What if the Cervical Screening Test (CST) is positive?
If the CST is positive, the laboratory will automatically look at the cells collected from the cervix. Depending on the result of those two tests, women will be classified as being:
- Low risk – return for your routine HPV test in 5 years
- Intermediate risk – have a repeat HPV test in 12 months
- Higher risk – organize a specialist follow-up.
The test will still require an examination and speculum insertion. If this is difficult for you, or if you haven’t had a Pap test or CST for a long time, then you have the option of doing your own swab test.
If at any stage, or at any age, you have symptoms of bleeding after sex, bleeding in between your periods, pain or abnormal vaginal discharge, please make an appointment with your doctor.
Do I wait to have my test?
If it has been two years since your last Pap test, then make an appointment now for a CST. Don’t wait 5 years.
And remember: Women still need a CST if they have been vaccinated. The current vaccine covers four strains or types of the HPV virus, but not all strains that can affect the cervix. A nine-strain vaccination will be available for Australian women soon.
If you would like more information on a Cervical Screening Test, and wish to discuss your concerns with an expert, make an appointment to see Dr Tonia Mezzini today.
Dr Tonia Mezzini is known for offering the best possible advice and treatment options for a person’s sexual health care needs. In particular, she cares for patients with:
- Menopause and hormonal concerns
- Breast cancer prevention strategies
- Chronic pelvic pain in men and women
- Painful periods and endometriosis
- Vulval pain syndromes and vulval skin conditions
- Low libido and pain with intercourse
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
- Gender-affirming hormone therapy
- Complex contraceptive choices
- Sexually transmitted infections such as recurrent genital herpes
- Recurrent bacterial vaginosis
- Recurrent thrush
- Information about sexual health