Cervical Screening Test (CST)

Cervical screening has changed in Australia. The Pap test has been replaced with a new Cervical Screening Test every five years. The latest medical and scientific evidence shows the new Cervical Screening Test is more effective at detecting the human papillomavirus (HPV) that causes cervical abnormalities, at an earlier stage.

It is expected that the changes to the National Cervical Screening Program will protect up to 30% more women from cervical cancer.

An increased understanding of cervical cancer and the changes made to the test means you can be confident that the new Cervical Screening Test is a more accurate, effective and safe test to have every five years instead of the two yearly Pap test.

What is the Cervical Screening Test .

Cervical Screening is done to detect potentially pre-cancerous and cancerous processes in the cervix.

With the new screening program, cells from the cervix are tested for HPV infection that may lead to cancer in the future

How is the cervical screening test done.

The test is done exactly the same as a Pap test. You will still have an examination using a speculum so that the cervix can be seen properly to take the sample of cells for HPV testing. The sample is collected using a special brush which is then placed in a container of liquid and sent away for testing.

Why do we need the change ?

New knowledge and technology means the cell changes that could lead to cervical cancer can be found sooner. Over 99% of cervical cancer is caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). The new test looks for the presence of the HPV virus rather than looking for changes in cells that can occur because of the virus

I have had the HPV vaccine . Do I still need the CST ?

Yes. If you’ve had the HPV vaccine it’s still important to have your regular CST. The vaccine prevents most types of HPV infection but it does not prevent all types that can cause cervical cancer. Talk to your doctor if you missed out on the HPV vaccine at school as it may still be useful for you to have it.

When Do I need to have a Cervical Screening Test

The screening age has changed from age 18 to 25 as research has shown that beginning cervical screening at age 25 years is safe.

If you are turning 25 years old, or have never had a Pap smear before, you should make an appointment with your health care provider to have a Cervical Screening Test.

If you are aged between 25-74 you should have your first Cervical Screening Test 2 years after your last Pap smear. Once you have had your first Cervical Screening Test, you will only need to have a test every 5 years instead of every 2 years unless your results are abnormal.

If you have had cervical screening abnormalities in the past, follow your health care provider’s advice.

What if I have any concerns and need earlier testing than 5 years

If you have irregular bleeding or other symptoms that your doctor feels needs a earlier screening it will be done for you.

What happens if I have an abnormal result

Your healthcare provider will receive your results about two weeks after your test and will contact you about your results if abnormal.

If your CST is positive for any high-risk types of HPV (the types most likely to cause cervical cancer) the laboratory will automatically carry out a second test to look for changes in the cells of the cervix called liquid based cytology (LBC).

If your CST is positive for HPV-16 or HPV-18 or if you have a high grade LBC you will be referred to a gynaecologist for an examination called a colposcopy.

Colposcopy is a close examination of the cervix under magnification. Dr Musa performs colposcopy in her office and if any cell changes are found, a sample of tissue (biopsy) will be taken from the cervix and sent to the lab for further testing. The results usually take a week to come back.

If the biopsy is high grade than we can do a LLETZ procedure in either  Greenslopes Private or Sunnybank Private Hospitals .

Does the Cervical Screening test detect all Gynecological cancers

No it does not,  the cervix is the opening of the uterus (neck of the womb)

The cervical screening test only guides us about cervical abnormality.

Currently there is no effective screening for endometrial or ovarian cancer so even if your CST is normal and you get abnormal bleeding , abdominal mass or other gynaecological concerns you still need to see your doctor or a gynaecologist  for assessment.