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.
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). You are then recommended to have a colposcopy.
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.
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.
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