Avoiding your cervical screening test?

Most cervical cancers can be prevented with regular screening.

This is Mary’s story.

“I visited my doctor and during my appointment she told me that it has been over four years since my last Pap test.

"She said that I should have the new Cervical Screening Test (CST). I didn’t know what the difference was.

"My doctor explained that the Cervical Screening Test looks for the human papillomavirus (HPV).

"Over 90 per cent of cervical cancers are caused by HPV.  It usually takes 10 years for changes caused by this virus to develop into cervical cancer.

"Cervical screening can find these changes before cancer starts to develop.

"I told my doctor that this wouldn’t affect me because my husband was my childhood sweetheart and my only sexual partner. 

"She said that most women and men will have been in contact with HPV at some time in their lives and it is so common that it is a normal part of ever being sexually active.

"I asked how the Cervical Screening Test is done.

"She said it is taken the same way as a Pap test and I won’t notice anything different. 

"I explained that I always feel embarrassed during these examinations. I wish there was another way of doing these tests and I really don’t want to do it! 

"My doctor then said because I was over the age of 30 and was overdue by more than 2 years for my cervical screening, I had the option to choose ‘self-collection’.

"She said that self-collection is when a woman collects her own sample.

"A self-collected sample contains vaginal cells (not cells from the cervix) and can be tested for HPV only.

"She explained that if I did choose to self-collect and HPV was found, then I would have to come back for a
Cervical Screening Test sample collected by a doctor.

"If my self-collected sample did not detect HPV, then I can wait 5 years before having another screening.
"I chose to do the self-collection.
"The doctor gave me a swab and told me what to do to collect the sample.  I went behind the curtain, collected the sample and handed it to her.  It was so easy!

"I highly recommend talking to your doctor about the Cervical Screening Test.”

All women aged 25 to 74 should have a Cervical Screening Test every five years.

For more information, visit cancerscreening.gov.au/cervical or phone 13 15 56.

- By Kim Roberts, Screening Recruitment and Cancer Prevention Officer, Population Screening and Cancer Prevention Unit, Tasmanian Health Service. 
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