Cervical Screening Test is a simple procedure to check the health of your cervix and screen for pre-cancerous and cancerous changes to your cervix. Having regular Cervical Screening Test every 5 years is the most effective way to protect against cervical cancer. It is performed in exactly the same way as pap smear, but the sample taken is tested differently. It has replaced pap smear as a tool to screen for cervical cancer.
As of 1 December 2017, cervical cancer is screened in Australian women aged between 25 and 75 through a 5 yearly HPV screening (Human Papilloma Virus – also commonly known as wart virus). This replaces the previous 2 yearly pap smear screening program. The process of obtaining a swab from the cervix using a vaginal speculum is still the same as previously.
The Pap test used to look for cell changes in the cervix, whereas the new Cervical Screening Test looks for HPV which can lead to cell changes in the cervix.
The way the sample is taken is exactly the same. An instrument called speculum is gently inserted into the vagina to visualise the cervix. A swab is taken from the cervix and sent away for testing in a pathology laboratory. The cells of the cervix were examined in conventional pap smear, while the presence of HPV is checked in Cervical Screening Test. This is a step ahead of the cells examination, as cell changes occur almost invariably due to presence of HPV.
Most Cervical Screening Tests are performed by GPs. If HPV (wart virus) is detected, the result is considered abnormal. The sample is then sent for testing for presence of abnormal cervical cells. This may be normal, low grade or high grade dysplasia (pre-cancerous).
If the result is abnormal, your GP should contact you with the result and organise further follow-up. Depending on the abnormality, this may be a repeat test or a referral to a gynaecologist for a colposcopy. If you have been recommended to see a gynaecologist and wish to see Dr Kuswanto for a colposcopy, please call (03) 9115 9338 to make an appointment.
It is important to know that most of these abnormal results does not mean cancer, but more likely to be pre-cancerous.
Human papilloma Virus (HPV) is a common virus that is spread by genital skin-to-skin contact during sexual activity. It is so common that many people have it at some point in their lives and never know it as there are usually no symptoms.
There are many types of HPV and your body’s immune system will naturally clear most types within one to two years.
If your body does not clear a HPV infection, it can cause cells in your cervix to change, which in rare cases can develop into cervical cancer. It usually takes up to 10 to 15 years for HPV to develop into cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer is preventable with regular cervical screening. The Cervical Screening Test is more accurate at detecting HPV. By detecting a HPV infection early, it allows your doctor to monitor the infection and intervene if there are any changes to cells in your cervix.
There is no treatment for HPV. In most cases the immune system will clear HPV from the body naturally over time. Most people with a HPV infection have no symptoms and will never know they have it.
If your body does not clear a HPV infection, it can cause changes to cells in your cervix, which in rare cases can develop into cervical cancer. If HPV and cervical cell changes are found on your Cervical Screening Test, your doctor will advise you about further testing and treatment.
Some types of HPV can cause genital warts and your doctor can suggest treatment options. Kent sees his private patients in Epworth Freemasons in East Melbourne. He also consults in Box Hill and Werribee.
Please click here for Dr Kuswanto’s presentation to GP on the New National Cervical Screening Program.
Link to RANZCOG Patient Information on Cervical Screening in Australia.