Changes to Pap test screening

From 1 December 2017 there are some important changes the Pap test screening program (now known as the National Cervical Screening Program).

The key messages  are:

Younger women can wait to have cervical screening tests at the age of 25, where it used to be 18

Older women should have their next test at the time it is due (that is 2 years since your last Pap test, or sooner if you have been advised to do so previously)

Women will now be offered ongoing screening up to the age of 74

The test will still be like a Pap test, using a speculum, and with the doctor checking the cervix and taking a sample. The first test the lab will do is for Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) – this is the virus known to induce changes in cervical cells which could lead to cancer

If your result is negative for HPV, this is regarded as “low risk” result and you will be advised to have screening again after another 5 years

If your test is positive for HPV, the lab will do further testing to look at the cells and will provide advice about referrals or the optimum timeframe for ongoing monitoring

Even if you have had HPV vaccination (Gardasil) you should still participate in the screening program

If you are very nervous about having  a Pap test please discuss with your doctor. There is an option for women over 30 to provide a self-collected sample, though this has lower pick up rate for abnormalities.

This test is a screening test, which means that it is for a woman who does not have any symptoms. If you have any symptoms such as bleeding between your periods or after sex, an irregular menstrual cycle, vaginal discharge or pelvic pain you should come and see a doctor

Regardless of the timing of your cervical screening test, it’s a good idea to discuss sexual health screening with your doctor at any time and at any age if you have ever been sexually active. This is especially the case if you have a new sexual partner. This could include tests for sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia.

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We encourage all women to participate in cervical screening. Since it’s introduction it has had a significant impact on the rates of cervical cancer in Australia, but there are still cases diagnosed every year. The group of women who are haven’t had screening in more than 4 years are at higher risk.

Several organisations have put together more detailed information about the changes, and we are including some useful links below. If you still have questions, please talk to your doctor and make a plan for your next test. We can put a reminder in our system to email you when it’s due.

Some useful links

Family Planning NSW https://www.fpnsw.org.au/changes

Department of Health http://www.health.gov.au/internet/screening/publishing.nsf/Content/about-the-new-test#1

http://www.abc.net.au/news/health/2017-09-20/what-you-need-to-know-about-pap-smears-being-phased-out/8753278

http://theconversation.com/five-myths-about-the-new-cervical-screening-program-that-refuse-to-die-74077