A new study supports a move to start screening women for cervical cancer from age 25, rather than between the ages of 18 and 20.
The research by the Cancer Council of New South Wales backs the Federal Government’s renewed National Cervical Screening Program (NCSP) which will come into effect in May 2017.
A human papilloma virus (HPV) test will replace the current pap smear examination.
The HPV test will be conducted every five years, compared to the pap smear which is presently carried out every two years.
The study’s author Megan Smith said cervical cancer was rare for women under the age of 25, many of whom were now vaccinated against HPV.
“This test will be a test for HPV, the virus that virtually causes all cervical cancers, and because this is a more accurate test than the current pap smear test it doesn’t need to be done as frequently,” she said.
“The pap smear needs to be done every two years. This new, more accurate, test will only need to be done every five years.”
The study, published in the Medical Journal of Australia, found screening women aged 20 to 24 had no significant impact on the rate of cervical cancer.
The findings were consistent with overseas studies which had found screening women under 25 years of age did not appear to be effective.
“In women aged under 25 there had been no change at all in the rates, in 20 years of screening them,” Ms Smith said.
“So, it doesn’t appear that screening women before the age of 25 is very effective.”
It was the first Australian study to examine whether cervical cancer had reduced in women aged 20 to 24 since the national screening program began.
In 2015, the Medical Services Advisory Committee (MSAC) reported that a HPV test every five years would be more effective at protecting against cervical cancer and was just as safe as two-yearly pap smear tests.
The Cancer Council of New South Wales said until the new screening regime came into effect, it was essential that women kept having pap smears to ensure they were not at risk of developing cervical cancer.
The Cancer Council also urged all women to begin screening promptly from age 25 when the program changes to the HPV test.
This post originally appeared on ABC News.
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