Australia’s new cervical screening program is good news for all of us with a cervix. A more sophisticated test means that the early signs of cervical cancer can be picked up one step earlier, helping to further improve early detection.
But we know that many Australians still have questions about the program – and what it means for them.
So, here are nine key things you need to know:
1. The test is different, but the procedure will feel the same
While the new program includes a new more sophisticated test that is replacing the old Pap test, when you go to the doctor, the process will feel the same. The difference in the new testing occurs in the laboratory, where scientists will check for the presence of the human papillomavirus, which causes virtually all cervical cancer cases. You can find out more about what to expect at your first test here.
2. Even if you are vaccinated, you will still need a test
Even if you have been vaccinated against HPV, it’s still important to get tested. That’s because there are other types of HPV-related cervical cancer that aren’t covered by vaccination.
3. You don’t have to screen until the age of 25
Under 25? Then you don’t need to start cervical screening just yet. Research has shown us that cervical screening doesn’t help lower the rate of cervical cancer cases and deaths in women under 25. But it can lead to unnecessary treatment and investigation that can cause complications for you down the track.
Another reason you can wait until 25 is because Australia now has a world-leading HPV vaccination program. You probably received the vaccination in school when you were 12 or 13 years old. Even if you didn’t, you’ll get some protection from the vaccination program, because so many young people are vaccinated that it’s helping prevent the spread of the virus.
If you are under 25 and have had an abnormal Pap test in the past, you should talk to your doctor about what tailored follow-up is best for you.
And of course, like anyone else, if you have any abnormal symptoms (see below), it’s important to see your doctor without delay.
4. You still need your first HPV test two years after your last Pap test