The Cervical Screening Test (CST), which replaced the Pap test, detects cancer-causing human papillomavirus (HPV) in the cervix. Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers. So having regular cervical screening tests is the best way you can protect yourself against cervical cancer.
Here are 6 reasons why a test every 5 years is key to making sure your cervix is healthy.
1. Most people will have HPV at some point in their life
You may not be familiar with HPV, that’s okay! We’re here to give you the facts.
HPV is one of the most common sexually transmissible infections (STIs) in Australia. Anyone can get it and usually it has no symptoms. 4 out of 5 people will have it at some point in their lives, but don’t let that freak you out! HPV usually clears up and goes away all by itself. However, in some cases it can lead to changes in the cells of the cervix that can lead to cervical cancer. Over 99% of cervical cancer is caused by the HPV virus, but thankfully only a small percentage of people infected with these types of HPV will go on to get cancer. It usually takes 10 years or more for HPV to develop into cervical cancer. So having a regular CST can make a big difference to your health.
2. The new test is more effective even though it feels the same
Having a CST feels exactly the same as the Pap test did. However, the new test is more effective as it actually detects the types of HPV linked to cervical cancer rather than looking for abnormal changes to cervical cells.
3. You only have to get it every 5 years instead of 2!
Because the new CST is more accurate and reliable than the old Pap test, you won’t need another test for 5 years unless the test finds HPV. Hooray!
The new test was rolled out in December 2017. If you’re 25 years old and your last test was before then, be sure to book in for a CST 2 years after your last one. If it’s been more than two years, go ahead and book in now.
4. Get tested even if you’ve been vaccinated
Many of you will have received the HPV vaccination at school, which is awesome! The vaccine will reduce your risk of developing cervical cancer by protecting you against the types of HPV that cause the majority of cervical cancer. But it doesn’t protect against all of them. So having been vaccinated doesn’t give you an automatic pass on getting a CST. You’ll still need to have a regular CST (every 5 years) to make sure you stay healthy.
5. Testing begins at 25
People who are 25, have a cervix and have ever been sexually active should have a CST.
Once you have your first test, and results are normal, you will need to get one every 5 years until you reach 74 years of age or as advised by your health care professional.
Some of you might be wondering why they changed the age for your first cervical screening test from 18 to 25. Cervical cancer in people younger than 25 is very rare, and the research shows that screening in those under 25 has not changed the rates of cervical cancer in this age group. Whatever your age, if you’re experiencing symptoms like pain, unusual bleeding, or pain or bleeding during sex, see a doctor ASAP!
6. You can choose who you want to see
You don’t need to see a specialist for cervical screening, your local GP can do the test, or you can book in at your local:
- Family Planning clinic
- Community health centre
- Women’s health centre
- Sexual health clinic
- Aboriginal Medical Service