Since 1 December 2017 there have been 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.
We encourage all women to participate in cervical screening. Since its 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 plan for your next test. We can put a reminder in our system to email you when it’s due.
Some useful links
Breastscreen invites you to have your first screening mammogram at age 50. The test is recommended for women aged 50-74.
Call 13 2050 to make a booking. You do not need a doctor’s referral.
Breastscreen also offers mammogram screening from age 40, though this can be a less effective screening program at a younger age, and you may wish to discuss with your doctor. If you are concerned about any breast symptom, or worried because of a family history of breast cancer please make an appointment with us for review.
As well as family history, there are many other factors that can impact on your breast cancer risk. You can find out more detail at Your Risk and Breast Cancer
The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP) invites eligible people starting at age 50 and continuing to age 74 (without symptoms) to screen for bowel cancer using a free, simple test at home. A kit will be sent to your home (address registered with Medicare), every 2 years according to your date of birth.
Australia has one of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the world. Around one in 23 Australians will develop bowel cancer during their lifetime.
The NBCSP aims to continue to reduce deaths from bowel cancer through early detection of the disease.
It’s not as complicated as it seems – check the video for advice. If you get it wrong, please ask us as we might be able to help out with extra supplies of the test kit components.