Aussie women can now visit their GP once every five years as opposed to every two as a new cervical cancer screening test is now available.
Through the new human papillomavirus (HPV) test, up to 30 per cent of women will be prevented from developing cervical cancer because it detects HPV, which is an early risk indicator for cervical cancer, unlike the current Pap test which detects cervical abnormalities after they occur.
With this, the new HPV test is more effective and so most women will only need to be tested every five years, instead of every two, but the procedure to collect the sample is still the same as the current Pap test.
Aussie women are now being encouraged to participate in an updated national screening program that aims to protect millions from cervical cancer.
Women aged 25 years and above must have their first Cervical Screening Test two years after their last Pap test, and if there is no HPV detected, they can then move to a test every five years.
Cervical cancer is caused by sexually acquired infection with certain types of HPV. Two HPV types – 16 and 18 – cause 70 per cent of cervical cancers and precancerous cervical lesions.
Around 80 per cent of Australian women who develop cervical cancer do not get screened regularly as recommended, or have never been screened.
Professor Karen Canfell, Chair of the Cancer Council’s Cancer Screening and Immunisation Committee, who was part of the research team, says the test will increase detection of precancerous lesions. “Because the new cervical screening test actually tests directly for the virus that causes cervical cancer, it’s a molecular test which is much more sensitive,” she told AAP. “That’s the reason it will pick up any changes to cells at a very fundamental level and therefore offer better protection against cervical cancer.”
She also added that the new test is one of the important innovations in cancer prevention. “Just as we’ve had HPV vaccinations now for 11 years I really think this is the next major step in improving cervical cancer prevention for women in Australia,” she said.
For further information, please speak with your GP or women’s health clinic.