A pap smear isn’t something to look forward to, but it’s a necessary appointment on the calendar along with dentist visits and skin cancer checks.
Breathe easy, ladies, because a new five-yearly Cervical Screening program has just replaced those uncomfortable biennial pap tests. And it’s safer too.
More importantly, the new test expects to cut the number of deaths in Australia from cervical cancer by up to 30 percent.
What’s the difference?
Although the procedure itself will feel the same – sorry ladies – the new, more sophisticated test looks for the presence of human papillomavirus (HPV) that causes almost all cervical cancer. The previous test only detected cervical abnormalities after they’d already happened.
Professor Karen Canfell, head of Cancer Council Australia’s Screening and Immunisation Committee, says it means fewer tests and better health for women. Sounds like a win-win to us.
“The old Pap smear was conducted every two years and looked for abnormalities in cells from the cervix. The new test is more sophisticated in that it allows scientists to look for the virus that, if left untreated, can cause the cell changes that can lead to cervical cancer,” Prof Canfell says.
“A more accurate test means that women won’t need to be screened as often.”
What you need to do
Your first Cervical Screening Test will be due two years after your last Pap test. If this test is normal you won’t need another one for five years.
Professor Canfell says women should still get screened even if they’ve been vaccinated for HPV. And she says anyone already overdue for a test should have it done right away.
“All eligible women, regardless of whether or not they have been vaccinated for HPV, should take part in the cervical screening program. And any woman who experiences any symptoms such as bleeding, pain or discharge should see a GP straight away, regardless of their age or when their last test was.”
Once you book your test, take a look at our previous article about how drinking wine can actually help you lose weight.