News

27-02-2017

The major change to the PAP program was due to start on May 1st, but an announcement has just been made regarding a delay because the screening register outsourced to Telstra will not be ready on time. In the meantime, the current guidelines remain regarding frequency and ages of PAPs ( two yearly from 18 years to 70 years of age or two years from the commencement of sexual activity). The changes have been recommended and developed by a panel of gynaecologists, pathologists, scientists and clinicians using evidence-based results and new knowledge regarding the cause of cervical cancer.

A petition claiming changes to cervical screening will put women's lives at risk is incorrect.

We now know most cervical cancers are caused by a virus ( the human papillomavirus or HPV), if no HPV is present , it is extremely rare to find a  cervical cancer ( less than 1%). This discovery and the use of a vaccine against HPV ( given to both girls and boys as part of the school vaccination programme) has led to the overhaul of the screening programme which commenced in 1991. Cervical cancers is very rare in women under 25 years of age, in one year , between  4 to 17 Australian young women will develop cervical cancer. The cervical cancer screening program has not changed the rates of cancer in women under 25 years of age.  Researchers from the Cancer Council NSW and University of Sydney reviewed the incidence of cervical cancers based on women's ages, before and after the introduction of screening and demonstrated the same incidence of 1.5 per 100 000 in 1990 and 2010 of women in their 20s developing cervical cancer ( MJA 2016:205(8):359-64

The National Cervical Screening Programme is changing to improve early detection and save lives.

 

  • Women will be invited when they are due to participate via the National Cancer Screening Register
  • The PAP smear will be replaced with the more accurate Cervical Screening Test, this is an HPV test looking for particular sub-types of the virus known to cause cervical cancer. If the virus is present, further testing will be done to look for evidence of abnormal cells that can be a precursor to cervical cancer using the same sample.
  • The time between tests will change from two to five years
  • The age which screening starts will increase from 18 years to 25 years
  • Women aged 70 to 74 years will be invited to have an exit test
  • There are many barriers for women having a PAP smear, under-screened or never screened women within the screening ages can be offered a self-collected vaginal swab for an HPV test by their GP. The gold standard test for accuracy in detecting abnormalities remains a sample from the cervix by a health practitioner, but a self-sample from the vagina is more reliable than the current PAP smear

Women at any age who have symptoms such as unusual bleeding, discharge and pain should consult their GP immediately

 

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