Tuesday, 16 May 2017 10:36

Good News on Pap Smears

Welcome changes for many women

Pap smears are understandably an unpleasant test for many women and the 2 years in between recalls seems to come around a little too quickly for most. The good news is that from the beginning of December 2017 the interval in between is to be stretched to 5 years with women advised to start having pap smears at age 25 rather than the current 18 years.

This has been brought about by new understandings of the cause of cervical cancer and the development of new testing technology. We now know that 99.7% of cervical cancer is caused by certain subtypes of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). By early detection of these viruses on a woman’s cervix we can better identify which women need further intervention to prevent dangerous precancerous changes. This detection of at risk women at an earlier stage of potential disease progression allows the interval between tests to be stretched to 5 years.

Further good news is that the HPV virus immunisation received in early high school for the last few years has led to a halving of precancerous findings on pap smears in women aged 20-24 years. However, it is stressed that vaccinated women still require regular HPV testing under this new program, as although the vaccine covers the main dangerous subtypes of HPV, there are over 100 subtypes of HPV and no vaccine is 100% effective in all people.

For now pap smears will still fall due 2 years after the last one but once tested after December 2017, the next recall will be in 5 years provided all is well. It is still critical that women heed the recall letters sent out by our practice as we know that 80% of cervical cancer occurs in women who have never been tested. Likewise regardless of Pap smear results it is essential women seek medical advice for unexpected vaginal bleeding or abnormal discharge or pelvic pain.

For further information the following link is interesting and useful: CLICK HERE