Hey there! Do you have a vagina and a cervix?
In that case, you’ve probably been told time and bloody time again that you MUST have a pap smear every 2 years.
Anyone who’s managed to keep track and get their pap test biennially deserves a hug and a goddamn medal – it’s so ridiculously easy to lose track of time.
Plus, let’s not lie to ourselves, shall we? There’s plenty of us that avoid it completely, because it can be pretty dang uncomfortable. (But don’t pls – your health and happiness is worth much more than a minute of being uncomfortable, promise.)
Anyway, it turns out that everything is changing. All those years your mum spent telling you ‘MAKE SURE YOU GET YOUR PAP SMEAR, I’M NOT GOING TO REMIND YOU AGAIN, YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE AN ADULT’ – all for nothing, apparently.
The Aussie government is completely overhauling the system, and so technically, after May next year, we will never have a pap smear again.
Don’t throw a party just yet, though. Instead of pap smears, y’all will be getting something called the ‘Cervical Screening Test’.
You probably have a lot of questions. We did too. Let’s dive in!
First and foremost, WHY is this changing?
New evidence and information has shown that the Cervical Screening Test is way more beneficial than pap smears. It’s all about detecting signs of cervical cancer before it even gets anywhere that stage, so it’s gonna save even more lives.
HOW is it different?
Well, technically, it’s a pretty similar vibe to the pap smear. It’s done the same way; it’s the testing that’s different.
It tests for HPV (Human Papillomavirus), which is a virus that is so common that most sexually active men and women eventually have it, and most don’t even realise.
A healthcare professional will still take a teensy amount of cells from ya cervix, then your gorgeous lil’ sample will be sent to a pathology laboratory to be tested.
So wait, what does HPV have to do with cervical cancer?
Well, there’s a hundred different types of the Human Papillomavirus, but types 16 and 18 are closely related to cervical cancer. It can cause abnormalities in the cervix, which over a long period, can cause cervical cancer.
Most HPV infections clear up by themselves without causing any problems, but persistent infection over many (over 10) years with cancer-causing types of HPV is the main cause of cervical cancer. In fact, 99.7% of all cervical cancers are caused by HPV.
Wtf – I’ve had the HPV vaccine though?
You forward-thinking lil’ bugger – nice one! Unfortunately, the vaccine doesn’t protect against *ALL* types of HPV infection that are known to cause cervical cancer. Better safe than sorry.
What age do I start getting this fandangled new Cervical Screening Test?
Well, it used to be that you had to start at age 18, or when you became sexually active (whichever came first). But with the new CST, you don’t have to begin having them until you are 25.
This is purely because they’ve been screening people under 25 for over 20 years, and stats of cervical cancer have never changed. It’s pretty damn rare under the age of 25, apparently.
That being said though, if you’re having any weird symptoms – unusual bleeding, discharge or pain – then head to your GP, because it’s a good idea to get yo’self checked, just for peace of mind.
Do I still have to go and get it done every two years?
Nope. So with the new Cervical Screening Test, you have to go and get it done every 5 years.
How do I get it done, do I just go to my doctor still?
Well look, if you’re having any weird symptoms, then yeah – head straight to your doctor. Otherwise, you’ll get automatic reminders.
If you’ve already had a pap smear in the past, then you’ll get an invitation to screen within three months of the date you would’ve been due for your regular pap test, and it’ll also remind you if you’re overdue to have it (which is pretty bloody handy).
If you’ve never had a pap smear before, the National Cervical Screening Register will send you an invitation to have your first cervical screening test when you reach the appropriate age.
Finally, WHEN will everything change?
The Cervical Screening Test will be available and covered under Medicare from May 1st, 2017.
You can do it, fam. Look after your cervix, your vagina, and everything in that region. God knows it looks after you.
(Here’s a Rupaul gif to say ‘well done’ for getting to the end of a boring article about your health.
I’M SO PROUD OF YOU.)
Source: Dept of Health.
Photo: Jane The Virgin.