The Cervical Screening Test (CST) is a simple procedure that in 2017 replaced the PAP test to check the health of your cervix.
Even if you are healthy, and you have no symptoms of cervical cancer you should go and see your local GP or Women's Health Nurse for a cervical screening test.
According to The Cancer Council, since the introduction of the National Cervical Screening Program there has been a halving of both the incidence and mortality (death) rates of cervical cancer in Australia. The program was originally the PAP test program and is now the Cervical Screening Test program - and it is a free test.
If you are aged between 25 and 74, have a cervix and you have been sexually active then it is recommended you have a CST every 5 years.
What is a Cervical Screening Test (CST)?
A CST is a simple procedure that is performed to check on the health of your cervix. The following picture provided by the National Cervical Screening Program, shows where your cervix is and the top of your vagina - this is where a sample is taken from with a very fine brush like swab.
If you have ever had a PAP test, a cervical screening test is collected the same way. A CST is the most effective test (and a better test than the PAP test) in preventing and detecting cervical cancers. This is because it looks at the cells collected from your cervix to look for different types of Human Papillomavirus (HPV).
You may find the CST procedure slightly uncomfortable, however it should never hurt. If you do feel pain at anytime during the test you should tell the GP or nurse right away.
What is the Human Papillomavirus (HPV)?
HPV is a virus that you can get from genital skin-to-skin contact during sex or sexual activities - even when wearing a condom as they do not cover your whole genital area.
There are many different types of HPV and most HPV infections will not cause any problems and will clear on their own.
HPV is so common, that it is now consider a normal part of being sexually active.
Some types of HPV can cause genital warts - they types may require treatment and you should see your local GP to discuss.
How do I get rid of HPV?
HPV is very common and sometimes people show no symptoms and your immune system can get rid of it over 1 to 2 years.
If your body does not clear a HPV infection this may start some changes in the cells of your cervix and in rare cases this can turn into cervical cancer.
For HPV to grow and develop into cervical cancer, it can take 10 - 15 years (which is one of the reasons why screening tests have changed from every 2 years to every 5 years).
"Most women who have the HPV infection never get cervical cancer;
only a few types of the HPV result in cervical cancer"
What is Cervical Cancer?
Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that is found growing in the cells of the lining of your cervix.
There are 2 main types of cervical cancers which are Squamous Cell Carcinoma - this is the most common type and the less common is an Adenocarcinoma - this one can be difficult to diagnose because it grows up higher in the cervix.
The biggest risk factor for cervical cancer is a HPV infection that continues to grow. The other main risk factor is smoking.
You can take steps to prevent or reduce your risk cervical cancer these are:
Immunise - Get the HPV vaccine - this protects you against the types of HPV that can cause cervical cancers
Regular screening - Cervical Screening Test every 5 years between the age of 25 and 74 - phone your local GP to see if you are due for you test!