Why book in for a Cervical Screening Test?

By Liam Hanrahan – HHD Health Assistant

If you are reading this post then you are probably wondering, what is the point of booking in for a Cervical Screening Test? Also, why should I listen to the advice of a 24 year old who doesn’t even have a cervix – what would he know?

These are quite valid questions and I hope to answer them all below.

Firstly, I should introduce myself. My name is Liam and I am one of the Health Assistants at Heroes Home Doctor. I am also a Second Year Medical Student at Deakin University and I have a passion for General Practice. This is my first blog post, so I hope that you find it informative and easy to understand.

What is cervical cancer?

Cervical cancer occurs when cervical cells begin to grow in an abnormal and unregulated way. If this uncontrolled growth of cells continues for long enough, it can cause symptoms such as, vaginal bleeding. Eventually, these cancer cells can spread to other areas of the body in a process known as metastasis. Importantly, cervical cancer often has no symptoms in the early stages, which is why screening is vital to detecting it, even if you are feeling well. (1)

What causes cervical cancer?

The most common cause of cervical cancer results from a persistent infection with Human Papillomavirus (HPV). This virus is often transmitted during sexual activity. Although HPV is common amongst people who have been sexually active, most are unaware they even had it the virus. Usually HPV is cleared by the body. However, sometimes the infection cannot be resolved by the immune system and in rare cases this can result in development of abnormal cervical cells growing, which can lead to cervical cancer. As over 99% of cervical cancers cases are caused by HPV, it is important to detect HPV using a Cervical Screening Test. (2)

Who should book in for a Cervical Screening Test?         

  • People who are 25 should book in for their first test.
  • This the test should be repeated every five years.
  • If you have previously only ever had Pap tests (which have now been replaced by this new test), the Cervical Screening Test is due two years after your last Pap test.
  • Finally, people with symptoms such as unusual vaginal bleeding or discharge should book in to see their healthcare provider. (2)

Why is Cervical Screening important?

The importance of booking in for a Cervical Screening Test has been made evident through numerous studies. The main finding from these have been that screening helps to detect cervical cancer earlier, which results in better treatment outcomes. Although we are fortunate in Australia to be one of the global leaders in cervical cancer prevention, over 930 patients are still diagnosed with cervical cancer every year. In 2018, there were 232 deaths caused by cervical cancer in Australia (1). This devastating number is a firm reminder that need to be vigilant with our cervical screening. Therefore, if you fit the eligibility criteria or are having any symptoms please book in for a Cervical Screening Test today.

References

  1. Cancer Council [internet]. Sydney: Cancer Council. Types of Cervical Cancer [cited 2020 Sep 24]. Available from: https://www.cancer.org.au/cancer-information/types-of-cancer/cervical-cancer
  2. Australian Government [Internet]. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia Understanding the National Cervical Screening Program Management Pathway: A Guide for Healthcare Providers. 2016 [cited 2020 Sep 24]. Available from: http://www.cancerscreening.gov.au/internet/screening/publishing.nsf/Content/C2058A7D155867ACCA2581C400082790/$File/CAN174-Understanding-the-National-Cervical-Screening-Program-Management-Pathway.pdf