Cervical Screening Test

What You Need to Know About a Cervical Screening Test

There are some misconceptions, worries and questions that often come up when I talk to my patients about a cervical screening test. So, I wanted to tackle some of the most frequently asked questions to help bring some clarity and reassurance about what’s involved in this simple but important procedure.

1. Is a Cervical Screening Test different to a pap smear?

No, they are one in the same thing. The cervical screening test was previously known as a pap smear but they both do the same job and are carried out in exactly the same way. The key difference is the cervical screening test aims to detect the presence of the HPV virus whereas the pap smear aims to find abnormal cells.

What You Need to Know About a Cervical Screening Test

Cervical Screening Test

There are some misconceptions, worries and questions that often come up when I talk to my patients about a cervical screening test. So, I wanted to tackle some of the most frequently asked questions to help bring some clarity and reassurance about what’s involved in this simple but important procedure.

1. Is a Cervical Screening Test different to a pap smear?

No, they are one in the same thing. The cervical screening test was previously known as a pap smear but they both do the same job and are carried out in exactly the same way. The key difference is the cervical screening test aims to detect the presence of the HPV virus whereas the pap smear aims to find abnormal cells.

2. Should I only have a cervical screening test if I think there’s a problem?

I encourage all women to seek medical attention if they have concerns regarding cervical screening. This can be a consultation with your GP or a gynaecologist. The Department of Health in Australia and The Cancer Council recommend women 25 and older should be screened every 5 years. This is a Commonwealth Government initiative and is available to all women in Australia. 

However, during Covid-19 pandemic, it has been reported that testing rates have reduced so if you haven’t had a test in the last 5 years it’s time to tick that important job off your list. Visit your GP as soon as possible, the test itself only takes a few minutes and it saves lives. It should be an important part of your self-care practices.

 

3. Is a cervical screening test painful?

Whilst some women might find the test a little uncomfortable, it certainly shouldn’t be painful. If you’re worried, it’s fine to take some mild over the counter pain relief before or after your test. If you do experience any significant discomfort, it’s important you speak to your doctor so they can investigate the underlying cause of any pain you might be experiencing.

 

4. Is a cervical screening test used to diagnose cancer?

Technically this isn’t absolutely true. However it is one of the most effective ways to detect pre-cancerous changes of the cervix and cervical cancer. The cervical screening is a routine test to enable detection of the HPV virus and abnormal cells. If any abnormalities are detected, then further tests will be required to determine whether there is a cancer diagnosis. If cancer is present, sometimes the cancerous cells can be detected during a routine cervical screening test.

 

5. Is a cervical screening test a surgical procedure?

A cervical screening test is a very standard procedure which can be carried out by your GP or nurse either at your local medical centre or family planning clinic. During a cervical screening test a sample of cells will be taken for testing which only takes a few minutes. It is not a surgical procedure. There is no need to visit hospital or have any kind of anaesthetic for example.

 

6. Will I bleed during or after a cervical screening test?

You might experience some blood spotting after a cervical screening test. There can be some irritation of the cervix when the sample is taken, but this is nothing to worry about and it should stop after a few hours.

 

7. Do I need a referral to get a cervical screening test?

You don’t need a referral to visit your GP for a cervical screening test. If you prefer to visit a private gynaecologist you will need a referral from your family doctor.

 

8. Will I have a coloscopy during the cervical screening test?

A colposcopy sometimes gets confused with a cervical screening test. Whilst the procedures are similar, they are not the same. A cervical screening test is a routine test carried out at least every 5 years. If abnormal cells are detected from your cervical screening the next step is a colposcopy, which can help confirm and diagnose potential problems.

During a colposcopy, a special instrument called a colposcope gives your doctor a highly magnified view of the tissues that make up your cervix. As with a cervical screening, a speculum is used to give a clear view of the cervix. 

 

9. Is it true I can do my own test?

Did you know there’s been a major update to the National Cervical Screening Test program in Australia. From 1st July 2022, women will be offered self-collection under the supervision of a healthcare professional. 

Since the introduction of cervical screening in 1991 the rates of cervical cancer have halved. The aim of the changes is to ensure that more women have access to the program, particularly those who may be underscreened. 

Self-collection is when a woman takes her own sample for cervical screening in a healthcare setting. The sample is taken with a cotton swab and is done under the supervision of a healthcare professional. 

If you still have questions about the cervical screening test, please don’t hesitate to contact your doctor or email me and I’ll be happy to guide you.

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© Dr Kieren Wilson 2023   |   Privacy policy
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