The Cervical Screening Test (CST) which was previously known as the ‘pap smear’ is a screening test performed in women who usually have no symptoms. This new CST test is much more reliable than the previous test and as such when a normal result is returned it only needs to be done every 5 years compared to the pap smear test which was done every 2 years with a normal result. It is very important that you have access to your most recent result and the recommendation for when you should have your next test (which is always included on the result).
Take action now! If you don’t know exactly when your last test was done and have absolute confidence when your next test is due call the National Cervical Screening Register on 1800 627 701 and ask them to provide these details!
Who needs a Cervical Screening Test?
1) All women aged between 25-70 should engage in regular screening if they have ever been sexually active (including if only with one partner or have only had same-sex relationships).
2) If you are having symptoms that may be attributable to cervical cancer then your doctor may recommend a CST even if you are younger than the usual starting age or if you are not yet due for your next CST.
Important symptoms to discuss with your doctor include:
-spotting between periods (may be with intercourse, exercise or just random) or post-menopausal bleeding
-pain with intercourse (dyspareunia)
-a change in vaginal discharge
So how is the CST different to the pap smear?
The CST is taken in exactly the same way as a pap smear- a doctor training in taking a CST uses a speculum to visualise the cervix (the part between your uterus and vagina) and takes a sample of cells.
The test should not be painful. View Video Here.
Download and Read Handout Here.
This sample is sent away to detect for the presence of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) which is known to cause cervical cancer. You should return to see your doctor and get these results so you are absolutely clear on what your results mean, when you are next due and that any reminders are set by both yourself and your doctor for your next test. If you are hesitant to attend just to get a ‘normal’ result consider taking a list of questions to ask your doctor about either cervical cancer, sexual health or any other aspect of health. These appointments can also often be provided by telehealth if it is more convenient for you.
What if I get an abnormal result?
There are different levels of abnormal results for the Cervical Screening Test and one of two things will usually happen if you have an abnormal result
-you will simply need a repeat test in 12 months time
You will be referred to a specialist for further testing (usually a colposcopy)
It is important to be aware that an abnormal CST result does not necessarily mean you have cervical cancer. Your doctor will explain what next steps you need to take and with what urgency.
Book an appointment with our team to discuss if you need to consider having a Cervical Screening Test.