Cervical Screening

Say GOOD-BYE to ‘Pap Smears’ and HELLO ‘Cervical Screening Test’

At Peelwood Family Medical Practice, our staff always endeavour to keep you in the best health possible.  Cancer screening programs such as Pap smears (screening for cancer of the cervix) has been one such strategy, but these are now a thing of the past with recent changes to the National Cervical Screening Program. 

While it doesn’t roll off the tongue as easily as Pap smear, the new Cervical Screening Test is a leap forward in the prevention of cervical cancer.  The main difference is that a Pap smear looked at cells of the cervix under a microscope and the new test will look for the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) that causes nearly all cervical cancers.  If the virus is found, then the cells are investigated for precancerous changes.   

While the basic procedure for testing is still the same from a patient’s point of view, testing will only be needed every 5 years (assuming results are normal).  This is because the HPV test is much more effective at preventing cervical cancers.  A lot of research and analysis has gone into the new program, and another change is to commence screening a little later – at age 25 years.  Cervical cancer is rare in younger women, and the advent of HPV vaccination, offered free in schools to students aged 12-13 years, further reduces the risk of abnormalities.       

Key points

  • The new Cervical Screening Test is more effective at preventing cervical cancers than the Pap smear.
  • The same basic procedure (a vaginal speculum examination) will take place in the doctor’s room.
  • Testing will be every 5 years instead of 2 years (for normal results).
  • You will still be recalled by the practice when you are due your test.
  • You may also receive invitations, reminders and recalls from the National Cancer Screening Register.
  • We will be working proactively to find any patients at the practice who are overdue.
  • Screening will commence at 25 years and continue until 74 years of age.
  • If you are aged between 70 and 74 years of age, please come and discuss a final test with your GP.
  • If you have never been screened for cervical cancer or it has been longer than you can remember, please make an appointment to see your GP.
  • You need to be screened, even if you have had your HPV vaccinations.
  • If you have any questions or concerns, please see your GP.

References

Changes to the National Cervical Screening Program (NCSP) for Healthcare providers From 1 December 2017; Available at http://www.cancerscreening.gov.au/internet/screening/publishing.nsf/Content/1-december-changes-fact-sheet (accessed 3 February 2018)

Vaccines & Our Littlies – the extra bits you might need to know!

Dr Jacqui Sutton, 24/10/17

We are very lucky in Australia to have an excellent national childhood vaccination program. In the first 2 years of life in Australia, children routinely receive immunisations to prevent:
Whooping Cough, Diphtheria, Tetanus, Polio, Pneumococcal, Haemophilus Influenza, Rotavirus, Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Chicken Pox, and one subtype of the Meningococcal strains (Meningococcal C). 

Our program is quite comprehensive and has drastically reduced the frequency, severity and complications of these infections; however, there are a couple of additions to the standard schedule that parents may consider for their littlest ones, and this update is targeted at providing information about those vaccines that are not found on the routine schedule. 

As a new (ish!) Mum myself, and seeing lots of new parents, I find there is often a lot of confusion about what our routine vaccination program doesn’t cover and what other vaccines are recommended (government funded, or at private cost). The most common questions are regarding the meningococcal vaccines, as there have been a number of cases of meningococcal disease in the media lately.

But there are a couple of others, particularly influenza and a booster of the chicken pox vaccine, that make the list of highly recommended, but not often completed, vaccines for our young children.

Here is a summary of the most important points, with a few more details following!

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