The pap smear (or pap test), is an examination and screening test provided to all women in Australia. The purpose of the pap smear is to identify any changes in the cervix (neck of the womb) which might indicate an early transition to cancer. Abnormal cervical cells, which are showing a transition toward cancer, have been damaged by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). HPV is sexually transmitted, and so anyone who has been sexually active may have been exposed to the virus. There are over 100 types of HPV although, only a few are thought to trigger cancer.
Pap tests are done as part of a cervical cancer screening program; they are designed to be screening tests, not a diagnostic test. This means that if an abnormal pap smear is detected, further information may be required. It does NOT mean you have cancer. Abnormal pap tests may mean an early repeat test, or treatment of inflammation to ensure a reliable sample can been examined. If a reliable sample shows a certain type of cell (CIN), or possible squamous lesion, then you may need a colposcopy to make a true diagnosis. All women over the age of 18 (or 2 years after the onset of sexual activity) should have pap smears every 2 years until 69 years of age. Even women who have had a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus or womb) may need regular pap smears, depending on the reason the hysterectomy was performed.This helps us identify women who may need further investigation and management of abnormal cells. Although it is not a perfect test it has led to a significant reduction in the number of women suffering from cervical cancer.
Most women prefer to have their pap smears done by a female health professional. Our specially trained doctors and nurse practitioners will conduct this examination and test to the highest standard of professional care possible. This is our specialty area and most women prefer to come to us for pap smears because of the special skills we have. Even for women, who find this examination difficult, we are able to make it easy and manageable, and offer sedation if appropriate for women who might otherwise find it distressing.
Nowadays, there is a schools based programme to vaccinate adolescent females and males ( http://hpv.health.gov.au/ for more details).
For women and men, who have not received the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccination, we can provide you with the full vaccination schedule. HPV vaccination helps protect women against cervical cancer, and by vaccinating men, both sexes are protected against many forms of cancer which can be triggered by HPV. The HPV vaccination is available free to boys and girls in year 9, and we can provide the immunisation at this clinic if you have missed out. For all others, who are not eligible to receive free vaccine, we can still help, but you will have to pay for the vaccine (though health insurers may reimburse you for the cost of the vaccine).
Cervical screening using pap smear schedule is due to change in 2016, with a new program. This will require women to be screened for HPV every 5 years, by using a self taken swab. For more information on the proposed changes to the cervical cancer screening programme, please see http://www.cancerscreening.gov.au/internet/screening/publishing.nsf/Content/ncsp-renewal