what is cervical screening
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  • Gynaecology
  • 13.10.22

What is cervical screening?

Did you know cervical cancer often starts with little or no symptoms?

That’s why all women aged 25 to 74 years old who have been sexually active should take a cervical screening test every five years. Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers in Australia through regular screening for early detection and treatment.

What is cervical screening used for?

Cervical screening is a basic examination that looks at the health of your cervix. It’s similar to the old pap smear test, however instead of looking for cell changes in the cervix, the cervical screening test looks for Human Papillomavirus (HPV). A cervical screening test can be done by a GP.

What is HPV?

HPV is a common sexually transmitted virus that can change the cells in the cervix, and in some cases those cells can develop into cervical cancer.

What happens during cervical screening?

During cervical screening, one of our experienced Women’s Health Specialist GPs will gently insert a speculum into your vagina (similar to a pap smear test) and hold it open so your cervix is easier to see. A swab will be used to take a cell sample to be sent to the laboratory for testing.

A cervical screening test may be uncomfortable, but is not normally painful.

How often do you need a cervical screening test?

Unlike the old pap smear test, which needed to be done every two years, a cervical
screening test only needs to be done every five years if your results are normal. To begin with, your cervical screening test can be conducted two years after your last pap smear test.

Who should have a cervical screening test?

Cervical screening is recommended if you are a woman or person with a cervix aged
between 25 and 75, and you have ever been sexually active. Cervical screening may also be recommended if you experience abnormal vaginal bleeding, bleeding after sexual intercourse, discharge or pain that is out of the ordinary.

Cervical screening results

If your test results come back negative, which is the most common result, we won’t need to see you for another cervical screening for another five years. Our Grace Private team will send you a reminder before your next one is due.

If you receive a positive or abnormal result from your cervical screening test, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have HPV or cervical cancer. You may need further tests. Some reasons for this kind of test include:

  • you have HPV, but you may need to retest in one year to see if your body’s immune system has expelled the virus
  • the sample wasn’t able to be read – you may need to repeat the test
  • you have abnormal cells which require further examination by a gynaecologist.

If you have abnormal cells you may need to have a colposcopy. A colposcopy only takes five to 10 minutes. During a colposcopy your gynaecologist will take an even closer look at your cervix using a microscope called a colposcope, looking for precancerous abnormalities in the cervix.

While a speculum will be used to give your gynaecologist a better look at your cervix, the colposcope doesn’t enter your body. An iodine and acetic acid solution will help highlight any abnormalities. A biopsy may be taken if needed and sent to a laboratory for further testing.

Like a cervical screening test, a colposcope may be uncomfortable, but shouldn’t be painful.

Cervical screening on the Gold Coast

You can see your regular GP for a cervical screening test. Alternatively, our Grace Private Specialist Women’s Health GPs offer in-room advanced gynaecological care and are highly experienced in cervical screening. Their services are also supported by a team of experienced Grace Gynaecologists in the event you need further examination.

Due for your cervical screening test? Request an appointment today.

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  • Gynaecology