Changes to cervical cancer screening now in place

A LEETON registered nurse has outlined new changes to cervical cancer screening, which could help save more lives. 

Christine Wallace works at the Leeton Medical Centre and said it was important for women to be informed about the changes to cervical cancer screening. 

Some of the important changes include:

  • A five-yearly Cervical Screening Test (CST) will replace the two-yearly pap test. The CST is more effective than and just as safe as, a pap test every two years.
  • Women will be invited to start cervical screening from the age of 25 and continue screening until they are 74 years. However, if sexually active from an early age (under 14 years, no HPV vaccination and/or presenting with abnormal or unusual symptoms), an early CST between 20 to 25 years will be considered.
  • Women who are already having pap tests should have their first CST when they are next due for a pap test (this is usually two years after their most recent pap test for those women with a normal screening history).
  • Women who have ever been sexually active should have a CST every five years
  • Women who have been vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV) need to have regular screening as the vaccine protects against SOME high-risk types of HPV, but does not protect against all oncogenic (cancer causing) types.
  • Healthcare providers will still perform a vaginal speculum examination and take a cervical sample, but the sample is place in liquid (instead of on a microscope slide) to enable detection of HPV.
  • HPV testing for cervical screening is more sensitive than pap tests (cytology), and detects the potential for progression to high-grade lesions earlier, thus preventing more cervical cancers.
  • If HPV is detected the laboratory will automatically, on the sample, conduct a cytology test to determine if any cervical cell abnormalities are present. Then the person’s risk and need for further tests is determined.
  • The new Cervical Screening Test will be supported by a new National Cancer Screening Register that will send invitations and reminder letters to women when they are due, and follow up letters when women have not attended further investigations or tests

“A new initiative in the revamped program is self-collection, where a woman collects her own sample for cervical screening,” Mrs Wallace said.

“This is offered to women who are overdue for their cervical screening or have never screened before, and is only to be provided by a healthcare provider during a consultation.

This is not recommended for all women.

“Self-collection maybe an option if you are 30 years or over, but is not suitable if you are pregnant, or think you might be pregnant, or are experiencing any unusual or abnormal symptoms.

“Most importantly, it is important to see your Healthcare Provider immediately if, at any age, you have any symptoms, such as abnormal vaginal bleeding, pain or discharge.”

For more information visit www.cancerscreening.gov.au/cervical.