Cervical screening has recently changed in Australia.
The Pap smear has been replaced with a new Cervical Screening Test. The new test looks for the cause of most cervical cancer, human papilloma virus (HPV), and it is advised to have one every five years. If you have had a Pap test before, the way the test is done will look and feel the same.
The procedure might be a bit uncomfortable, but it shouldn’t be painful. If it does hurt, tell your healthcare professional straight away.
HOW OFTEN DO I NEED A CERVICAL SCREENING TEST?
If you are a person with a cervix aged 25-74 years, and have ever been sexually active, you should have a Cervical Screening Test every five years until the age of 74. Your first test is due at 25 years of age or two years after your last Pap test.
I’VE HAD THE HPV VACCINE, DO I STILL NEED TO HAVE REGULAR CERVICAL SCREENING TESTS?
The HPV vaccine does not protect against all types of HPV that can cause cervical cancer so it is important to continue regular screening.
PREPARING FOR YOUR CERVICAL SCREENING TEST
- Talk through any concerns with your healthcare professional before the test
- The best time to have your test is in the middle of your menstrual cycle, a few days after you have finished your period and up to a week or so before your next period is due
More information about cervical screening go to http://www.healthywa.wa.gov.au/cervicalscreening
MY TEST SHOWS I’VE GOT HPV – NOW WHAT?
HPV is a common infection, and 4 out of 5 people will have it at some point in their lifetime (and most won’t know about it). HPV is easily passed on through unprotected sexual activity. After you have sex with someone with the virus, HPV is shared between you, and each person’s body deals with it in their own way. It is mostly impossible to tell where it came from, or who had it first.
Many people don’t realise they carry the virus (ie they have no symptoms), and passing it on is not a deliberate act. People can also develop symptoms years after having sex with someone who has an infection (so it might not be a current partner).
Most HPV infections are naturally cleared by the body’s immune system in about two years without causing any problems. If the body does not clear the virus, these abnormal cervical cells can progress and this may lead to cervical cancer. This usually takes as long as 10 to 15 years.