Pap smears are uncomfortable but are necessary to test for cervical cancer. A pap smear screens for any precancerous or cancerous cells located on the cervix, which is the opening of the uterus.
In Australia, pap smears were replaced by Cervical Screening Tests (CST) which are said to be more effective and less invasive than regular pap smears. The mortality rates in Australia have halved since CSTs were introduced in 1991. Several changes were made to work against the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) strain also, which was the main cause of cervical cancer in more than 99 per cent of cases.
HPV is a sexually transmitted infection that has no symptoms and usually goes away by itself. However untreated and persistent HPV infections have the potential to create abnormal cells on the cervix. After a long period of time, these cells might develop into cancer.
What is a Cervical Screening Test?
A CST is a quick procedure that is over within a few minutes and can be performed by a doctor, nurse or community health worker.
During the procedure, the doctor or nurse will insert a speculum into your vagina. This is a device that opens your vagina and makes it easier to see the cervix. A sample of cells will be taken from the cervix and these are then sent for testing. This shouldn’t hurt, so it’s important to let the doctor or nurse know if it does.
After the CST is finished, the doctor or nurse will let you know when the results become available.
How often do you need screening?
Our team suggests if you are a sexually active woman between the ages of 25 and 74 years, you should have a Cervical Screening Test every five years.
Even though the CST can be uncomfortable, it is completely safe and gives you peace of mind. It is recommended that if you haven’t had a CST before and you fall in the right age bracket, you should see a doctor immediately to perform one.