The Cervical Screening Test and HPV Simplified 🏥
Have you been putting off your cervical smear test? Are you unsure what the fuss is all about?
In today’s episode of Dr Nora, I’ll be answering all your questions and more, from what the test is for, what the procedure is like and my top tips on surviving your test. I’ll also be sharing with you an exciting news update about cervical cancer.
By the end of the video you’ll be clued up and ready to book in your test.
Let’s fight cervical cancer together. 💪
Free Breast Screening: https://youtu.be/quClz8rA6jc
Contraception Options: https://youtu.be/x1stoHmJtqw
Cervical Screening Update: https://youtu.be/gzfQL7NVTYE
WHAT IS CERVICAL SCREENING?
In order to understand this better, let’s go through a little anatomy. The cervix is found at the top of the vagina and forms the entrance of the womb - the organ in females that allows us to carry children. By having a cervical screening test it helps to detect any abnormal cells that may go on to causing cervical cancer.
You may have already heard of the PAP smear - The PAP smear preceded the cervical screening programme. The test consisted of collecting, staining and microscopic examination of the cells from the cervix. If abnormal cells were found they were removed to stop cervical cancer developing. The PAP test relied on cell changes being visible under a microscope and so it was recommended to have this every 2 years.
It was later discovered that HPV causes cervical cancer and the first HPV test was invented 15 years later. And it is this principle that we use today which forms the basis of the cervical screening test. Cells are taken from the cervix in the same way as the traditional PAP smear but instead of looking for cell changes it looks for the types of HPV which can cause cells to change and in come cases cause cervical cancer. HPV is the cause of more than 99% of cervical cancers.
WHAT IS HPV?
HPV, otherwise known as Human Papilloma Virus, is very common, in fact it’s so common that many of us including men, will have it at some point in our lives and not know about it as it has no symptoms. There are a lot of different types of HPV infections - to be precise - there are over 100 of which at least 14 are considered high risk and can cause cancer.
HPV is spread from genital skin to skin contact and it is considered the most common sexually transmitted infection. Most HPV infections will be naturally cleared up by your own immune system within one or two years without causing problems. In rare cases your body may not clear it and so your doctor may refer you onwards for further management.
In Australia, the cervical screening test is available from the ages of 25 to 74 years old and is open to hetero and homosexual women, transgender and intersex, as anyone who engages in genital skin to skin contact with a person of any gender can be infected with HPV.
The test itself is very quick and should not be painful however it may be uncomfortable.
Your practitioner will offer you a chaperone if wished and you will be asked to remove your garments from the waist downwards and place your legs apart on the couch. A plastic speculum is then inserted into the vagina and a quick sample is taken.
Top tips to get you through your smear:
- relax and take some deep breaths. the pelvic floor muscles sense when you’re anxious and tense up making the procedure longer and more uncomfortable.
- make trivial conversation, you’ll be surprised by how much this actually helps because by the time you’ve finished your sentence the procedure is over
- don’t worry about how things look down there. As doctors we’ve seen it all, and trust me when I say that by the time you’re out the door we’ve already forgotten (in the nicest way)
- and finally, don’t put it off.
- return to screen in 5 years
- repeat the test in 12 months
- refer to specialist
- unsatisfactory test result.
Cervical screening is offered from the ages of 25 to 74 years old in Australia. If you are outside of these age groups and are suffering from symptoms such as abnormal bleeding - for example in between periods, after intercourse or even after menopause it is important to seek the advice from your medical practitioner for further tests.
With the new cervical screening and vaccination programme now in full swing in Australia, academics say that over 13 million cases of cervical cancer could be prevented in the next 50 years. If these strategies are implemented worldwide, researchers have estimated that by the end of the century, the level of cervical cancer could be so low that it could be considered as eliminated.
Thanks for watching and if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to leave me a comment in the comments section below or pop by and see me in clinic.
Take care and stay healthy.
Dr Nora 💉
For more information: https://www.qld.gov.au/health/conditions/screening/cancer/cervical