Women urged to take part in new, more accurate Pap smear program

Woman with braid at beach

It’s hoped that Australian women will embrace a new, less-frequent but much more accurate Pap smear test in a bid to dramatically reduce cancer rates in women.

New national screening program

This new national government-backed program launched on 1 December, and it’s expected to lower cervical cancer cases and mortality by at least 20 percent.

The life-saving initiative offers a cervical screening test (aka Pap smear!) every five years for women aged 25 to 74. This replaces the old, familiar, slightly uncomfortable Pap test we’ve been encouraged to undertake every two years, from age 18.

Cancer Council Australia says the new test is more sophisticated, and more easily and accurately detects the human papillomavirus (HPV). It’s the presence of HPV that causes almost all cervical cancer. 

Life-saving new test

Chair of Cancer Council Australia’s Screening and Immunisation Committee, Professor Karen Canfell, says this new test is far superior to the old one, and pinpoints any worrying changes more accurately. This means far fewer invasive interventions (i.e. less time in the stirrups, ladies!)

“The old Pap smear was conducted every two years and looked for abnormalities in cells from the cervix. The new test is more sophisticated in that it allows scientists to look for the virus that, if left untreated, can cause the cell changes that can lead to cervical cancer,” Professor Canfell explained.

“By detecting the main precursor to cervical cancer, we can help prevent more cancer cases from occurring, and take action sooner.” 

Professor Canfell said that while the Pap smears from the new program will seem the same when women are experiencing them, they only need to be done every five years now, and they gather much more accurate data.

Fewer tests, more accurate results

She also reminds women that Pap smears are vital, even if they’ve had the HPV vaccination, and women should take part in the program  – and stay in touch with their GP – to safeguard their own health

“A more accurate test means that women won’t need to be screened as often. Most importantly, the new program is expected to save lives.”

“All eligible women, regardless of whether or not they have been vaccinated for HPV, should take part in the cervical screening program. Any woman who experiences any symptoms such as bleeding, pain or discharge should see a GP straight away, regardless of their age or when their last test was.”

A better, less-frequent test aimed at avoiding cancer? Sign. Us. Up. Now! 

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