Just like taxes and break-ups, trips to the lady doctor are one of those not so pleasant yet inevitable parts of adult life… but did you know that 43% of Australian women aren’t having their recommended 2-yearly pap test? Girls… what gives? With Cervical cancer one of the easiest to treat when detected early, there should be no excuse for not staying on top of it. While these statistics are seriously alarming (to say the very least), the silver lining to this less than sunny situation is that these numbers CAN be significantly reduced with enough awareness that in turn impel action. With National Cervical Cancer Month upon us, we thought it an opportune time to take five with leading Aussie GP Dr. Ginni Mansberg to talk all things prevention and give you the lowdown on everything you need to know about the new National Cervical Screening Program, which will be rolling out across the country in 2017.
Why do you think women aren’t being screened as regularly as they should?
Research has shown it’s because they often forget, find it uncomfortable or embarrassing or think they’re not at risk of cervical cancer. Some younger women who have received the Gardasil vaccine also think they’re fully protected and don’t think they need to get pap tests. The vaccine is great and protects against 70-80% of the HPV’s that cause cancer – but not 100% so screening is still necessary. Early detection really is the best prevention and a few minutes of discomfort can literally save your life.
Who is most at risk of developing cervical cancer?
Anyone who is sexually active. The biggest group who are at risk of cervical cancer are those who aren’t having the recommended 2-yearly pap tests.
Is there anything that can increase the risk of cervical cancer?
There are many factors that can increase the risk of cervical cancer, but that doesn’t mean you’ll get the disease. Things like smoking, having HIV/AIDS, taking drugs and having chlamydia increase the risk of a diagnosis as they all weaken the immune system making it less effective in fighting off HPV infections and destroying cancer cells.
Why is the national cervical cancer screening process changing?
Based on new evidence and better technology, the National Cervical Screening Program is changing. The new program will be able to improve early detection, save more lives and enables the ability to test specifically for HPV rather than abnormal cells.
What are the main differences?
The current guidelines are from 18 but from May next year, this will be changed to be from 25. Women will need to be screened every 5 years rather than every 2 years. Women will now be tested for the Human Papilloma Virus, rather than for abnormal cells, which is what the Pap smear test currently tests for. By identifying if women have HPV or not then treating accordingly, any indication of cervical cancer should be detected early.
When is this going to be rolled out?
The changes will begin from 1st May 2017
What is the one piece of advice you wish to give to every woman?
The most important piece of advice I could give to women would be to make sure you are up-to-date with your Pap test and if you are overdue, go and book one immediately. Early detection can save both your fertility and your life.
Ginni Mansberg is a well known doctor in Australia. She is a Sydney GP sidelining for Sunrise & Morning Show (Channel7), various mags, lots of kids, 2 exuberant dogs and wannabe Masterchef and dedicated caffeine addict.
For more information, please visit http://www.cancerscreening.gov.au/internet/screening/publishing.nsf/content/cervical-screening-1