Following on from Dr. Rachel Barry’s blog on the new Cervical Screening Test (CST) that replaces the Pap Test, we are sure you have lots of questions about the reason for change and what it means in real terms.
It is a more accurate test which is one of the reasons we can go to 5 yearly screening for women with a negative result. The test itself is not just looking at cell changes but seeing if you carry any of the cancer causing types of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV).
It is predicted that because it is such a better test that overall cervical cancer rates are predicted to go down by 20%-30%!
But how we feeling as society about screening age commencing at 25 years old?
For many years, as Health Practitioners, we have encouraged women to come in for their Pap Test every 2 years from the age of 18, so it’s a big change for us in society and the Medical Profession.
Why is ok to start later?
There are many strains of HPV, only a few will go onto cause cancer. We know that many young women and men will pick up HPV; it’s almost like the common cold of sex. If contracted the majority of the virus can be cleared up by the body itself, without need for treatment.
We also now are vaccinating all young people against the most cancer causing (oncogenic) types.
Stella Heley, Senior Liason Physician in Sexual Health at the Victorian Cytology Services and member of the HPV Vaccine Working Party, points out that we have caused more trauma and anxiety by over treating the under 25 age group which would have most likely cleared up without any treatment.
Thankfully this can now be avoided.
Over the last 20 odd years we have made no changes to cancer rates found in the under 25 age group by screening from age 18 every 2 years!
We also know that it takes between 1 and 15 years for PRE-cancerous cells to become established so we have time to monitor our patients and adjust as necessary.
What difference does the new test mean for you when you visit your Doctor or Nurse?
Well, in terms of how the sample is taken it will be the same for you. We still use a speculum and take a small sample of cells from the cervix and send them off for testing.
The National Cervical Screening Program Guidelines should also provide additional peace of mind.
The Australia Government Department of Health also provide a lot of useful information that’s worth checking out.
I hope you find this information somewhat reassuring!
Of course, should you have any symptoms of inter-menstrual bleeding, bleeding after sex, pain or discharge please see your Doctor.
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