Since the Pap smear test for cervical cancer was introduced in 1991, Australia has developed one of the lowest rates of mortality for that particular cancer in the world. In fact in its first ten years, the Pap smear reduced the fatality rate from cervical cancer in Australia by up to 50 percent. Now a new test approved by Medical authorities aims to reduce that rate even further, whilst also reducing the frequency at which women need to be tested.
Currently, women undertake Pap smear testing, seeking for signs of the cancer-causing human papillomavirus, or HPV, once every two to three years. Under new testing methods officially recommended for the first time by the Medical Services Advisory Committee, testing would only need to be carried out once every five years.
The new methods are, in part, a product of testing in a world where a HPV vaccine exists. The procedure for testing remains largely the same as a Pap smear, however the more specific and refined HPV screening is projected to return results that are just as, if not more, accurate than current testing methods.
In addition, the recommended age for initial testing will be pushed out from the current age range of between 18 and 20, out to 25 for a woman to undertake her first HPV test.
The new testing has been extensively researched to assuage fears that later and less frequent testing could potentially put lives at risk, and has been fully approved by multiple authorities, including the Cancer Council of Australia, at every turn.
Cervical cancer accounts for around 1.7% of all cancers in Australian women, and 1.3% of cancer deaths. Individuals exhibiting symptoms, regardless of routine testing results, should seek treatment immediately.
The new tests are projected to replace the existing Pap smear examination as standard by 2016.
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