Updated Cervical Cancer Guidelines for Women – Pap Smear Test to be replaced with HPV test

01 March, 2017 -The Medical Services Advisory Committee (MSAC) has provided recommendations on new approaches to cervical screening in Australia. Following a comprehensive review of the current evidence for cervical screening, MSAC has recommended for both Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccinated and unvaccinated women that:

  • an HPV test should be undertaken every five years
  • cervical screening should commence at 25 years of age
  • women should have an exit test between 70 and 74 years of age
  • women with symptoms (including pain or bleeding) can have a cervical test at any age.

Based on new evidence and better technology, the National Cervical Screening Program will change from 01 December 2017. One HPV test every five years is more effective at protecting against cervical cancer (saving more lives) and is just as safe as, screening with a Pap test every two years, meaning women will need fewer tests.

HPV vaccinated women will still require cervical screening as the HPV vaccine does not protect against all the types of HPV that cause cervical cancer.

Under the Renewed National Cervical Screening Program, the two yearly Pap test for women aged 18 to 69 will change to a five yearly human papillomavirus (HPV) test for women aged 25 to 74. Women will be due for the first Cervical Screening Test two years after their last Pap test.

Women of any age who have symptoms such as unusual bleeding, discharge and pain should see their health care professional immediately.

Until the renewed National Cervical Screening Program is implemented, women aged between 18 and 69 years who have ever been sexually active should continue to have a Pap test when due.

This information is important to women living with HIV because the development of cervical (and other) cancers are more common among PLHIV. The HIV guidelines currently recommend that all HIV-positive women receive an annual Pap smear screening test (i.e. more frequently than every 2 years). When the new HPV test is put in place in December 2017, whether more frequent HPV test screening (more than every 5 years) will be required for HIV-positive women is yet unknown. HIV-positive women should discuss this with their doctor. Additionally if you are due for your annual Pap smear test before December, you should still have the Pap smear test at that time.

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