We now know that Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is the cause of most cervical cancer. So now we know that, we also look for HPV, if we find cell changes, we will arrange to remove the cells that have changed. If we find HPV, we will try and work out which version (there are over 100 versions and 16 and 18 are the ones we know are linked to cervical cancer) we will arrange to remove the cells that are infected.
Human papilloma virus is common and usually you won’t have any symptoms of it. Both men and women can be infected by HPV and it is a sexually transmitted infection. The body may clear HPV by itself but certain types can cause changes to the cells on your cervix which can develop into cancer.
The screening test involves brushing cells off the cervix and sending them to the lab to be looked at under a microscope.
All women between 25 and 74 years of age should have a cervical screening test two years after their last Pap test. If we find cell changes or HPV types 16 or 18, you will be referred to see a doctor who can remove the cells during a procedure called colposcopy. If we find a different version of HPV we will advise you to have the test repeated after 12 months to check if your body has cleared the infection. If we don’t find cell changes or any HPV you will be advised to have a follow up test after 5 years.
The reason the age has changed from 18 to 25 for your first screening is that most women under the age of 25 will have been vaccinated for HPV. In addition, cervical cancer in women under 25 is rare. Your Integriti GP may be able to provide a smear test under 25 years in certain circumstances, please contact them to discuss.
The test itself is quick. To collect cells from the cervix, your doctor or specialist nurse will use a speculum (plastic instrument) to hold the vagina open and allow them to see your cervix. The cells are then removed using a soft brush. Positioning the speculum so that the doctor or nurse can see your cervix is the most uncomfortable part of the test.
Once the cells have been taken and sent to the lab the result will take 7-10 days to come back. Your doctor or nurse will explain how you will receive the results.
Remember a Cervical Screening Test is a test for women who do not have symptoms.
If you have symptoms such as pain, abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge, always see your doctor or an Integriti GP straight away - regardless of your age and even if your last screening test was normal.
What if I get an abnormal test result?
If abnormal cells are noted in the smear, your doctor may recommend a repeat test in 12 months, or you may be referred to a specialist gynaecologist. Your Integriti GP will discuss your results, any concerns and explain next steps. Women who have had an abnormal smear result may need to have more frequent screening tests in the future.
Lastly, please do not be embarrassed or concerned about having this screening. Our Integriti GP's are very experienced at delivering this service and will make the process as simple and comfortable as they can.
Please do not put your screening off and book an appointment now. It could save your life.