The Australian Government has updated the cervical cancer screening program for all women to help reduce the risk of cervical cancer in our younger generation.

The new screening test now looks for HPV which causes almost all cervical cancers, whereas the Pap smear test just looks for abnormal cells. The new test is far more effective at preventing cervical cancers.

What is HPV?

HPV stands for human papillomavirus. Genital HPV is a very common sexually transmitted infection which usually goes away by itself and has no symptoms. It is passed on by genital skin to skin contact, not by semen, blood or saliva.

It can, however, be responsible for almost all cases of genital warts and cervical cancer

  • 90% of anal cancers
  • 65% of vaginal cancers
  • 50% of vulva cancers
  • 35% of penile cancers
  • 60% of oropharyngeal cancers (cancers of the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils).

The HPV Vaccine

There is now a vaccine available that is being offered to high school aged males and females. This is helping to reduce the cervical cancer risks. The vaccine is called Gardasil 9 and protects against nine types of HPV.

You can read more about the vaccine here.

The Cervical Screening test

The new test replaces the pap smear test and instead of looking for changes to the cells of the cervix alone, the new test also looks for the virus inside the cervical cells as well. This means that we are also now looking at women who could be at risk of developing cancer in the future, as well as also looking for changes to the existing cells.

Time to get tested!

The other big change in reducing risk is that the Cancer Council recommends that all women aged 25-74 should have a HPV screening test every 5 years.

Previously women needed to have a Pap test every two years from 18 years of age, but the new test is more effective and safe to do every five years if your result is normal.

You can read more about the Cervical Screening Program at the Cancer Council and National Screening Program website.