The importance of a cervical screening test
The cervical screening test replaced the pap smear, or pap test, in 2017 and is a procedure to check for the presence of human papillomavirus (HPV) which causes almost all cervical cancers. Learn all about the importance of a cervical screening test and what it involves in our blog below.
What is a cervical screening test?
A persistent HPV infection can cause cells in the cervix to change over a period of years and in rare cases, these cells can develop into cervical cancer. A doctor, nurse or health care professional (you can ask for a woman to perform the test if that is what you prefer) can do the cervical screening test within a few minutes. If you’ve previously had a pap smear, it is completed in much the same way.
How is a cervical screening test performed?
Like a pap smear, during a cervical screening test, the doctor will gently insert a speculum into your vagina to get a clear view of the cervix, before using a swab to collect a sample of cells. The whole process is over within a few minutes and should not cause any pain (you should let the doctor performing the test know if you are feeling any pain). The sample is then sent to be tested and if it is returned negative you may not need another test for five years. You can discuss the results with your doctor.
Who should get a cervical screening test?
Women aged between 25 and 74 are eligible for a subsidised cervical screening test which should be completed once every 5 years. Women who have ever been sexually active are strongly encouraged to be tested. It is recommended that you begin cervical screening two years after your last pap smear.
People who should still be tested include:
- Those who have had the HPV vaccination (while the vaccine is effective at protecting against certain types of cancer-causing HPV, it doesn’t protect against all viruses that can lead to cervical cancer so even if you have been vaccinated against HPV infection, you still require a cervical screening test).
- Pregnant women (make sure you tell the health care provider you are pregnant before the procedure).
- People who are no longer sexually active or have only had one sexual partner (most people will have HPV at some point in their lives, so it is important to have a cervical screening test).
- People who have been through menopause (having gone through menopause doesn’t reduce your risk of developing cervical cancer so a cervical screening test should be done every five years until age 74).
- People who have had a hysterectomy should speak to their doctor about whether a cervical screening test is necessary for them.
Where do I have a cervical screening test?
Your GP, gynaecologist or women’s health professional can perform a cervical screening test for you in the comfort of their practice or clinic.
If you would like to arrange a cervical screening test or have a chat about what is involved, please call Drayton Street Family Practice on (07) 4171 0711 to make an appointment and discuss it with one of our GPs.