The traditional PAP test is changing in early December to a HPV test, which will start at a later age of 25 years (up from 18years), be spaced at five year intervals instead of two and is a more accurate test.

 The technique to have a HPV test will not change and still involves a sample of the cells from your cervix being collected using a speculum to see your cervix and a brush to sample the cells by a qualified medical professional.

In an effort to further reduce cervical cancer rates for women who have never been tested and have avoided having PAP smears, those who are overdue for a PAP test by more than two years or have never been tested will be offered the option of taking a vaginal swab themselves.

 The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) causes about 99 per cent of cervical cancer cases. At least twenty of the HPV virus types are also known to cause vaginal, penile, anal, head and neck cancer. The new test is to detect the presence of the virus rather than precancerous cell changes on the cervix.  The virus cells are present many years before any cell changes may occur, hence the increased accuracy of the test in detecting those who may be at risk of developing cervical cancer in the future.

The virus may be cleared by a woman's immune system, but can cause changes to the cervical skin that then progress to cancer, it is estimated that this process usually takes ten years or more to do this. It is transmitted via genital skin to skin contact and often has no symptoms, but some HPV types cause genital warts.

 The HPV vaccine has been shown to reduce cervical abnormalities in young women, but does not protect against all the types of HPV that cause cervical cancer.

If you test positive, you will be monitored closely for potential changes and for the virus to be cleared.

 The changes are due to start from December 1, but are dependent on the introduction of the new National Cancer Screening Register, which has already been delayed by seven months. The register will combine the current bowel and cervical screening databases to improve reminder systems for checkups.




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