According to Australian Cervical Cancer Foundation (ACCF), almost 45% of Australian women aren’t up to date with their cervical screening. From 12-18 November 2018, ACCF will be running a campaign for National Cervical Cancer Awareness week. This presents a great time to focus on the importance of cervical cancer screening and the need for doctors and patients to be aware of the current process.
Since Australia’s cervical cancer screening program was introduced in 1991, the rate of cervical cancer cases and deaths in Australian women has halved. However new technology has provided a more effective test that screens for human papillomavirus (HPV) rather than simply looking for abnormal cells. HPV is known to cause almost all cervical cancers. Commencing screening at age 25 will reduce the investigation and treatment of common cervical abnormalities that would usually resolve by themselves. The time from HPV infection to cervical cancer is usually 10 to 15 years.
- Women should start screening at the age of 25 rather than 18-20.
- Women who had a normal Pap smear test in the two years before 1 December 2017 should do their first Cervical Screening Test two years after their last Pap smear.
- Once a patient has been screened for HPV, and returns a normal result, they can wait five years until their next test.
- If a past pap smear test picked up an abnormality, patients will continue to receive personalised care from their specialist or doctor. This might include regular appointments and tests for a period of time.