Pap tests when did you last have one?
A recent study by the Jean Hailes Foundation for Women's Health revealed that 40 per cent of women under the age of 30 are not having regular pap tests. Researcher Dr Mandy Deeks expressed her concern over this worrying result. "The pap screen figures were lower than we expected," says Mandy. "Young women are not attending for pap screens as much as they should be."
A pap test taken two yearly from the ages of 18-70 years will reduce a woman's risk of developing cervical cancer by up to 90 per cent.
Women should start having pap tests a year after their first sexual contact or between the ages 18-20, (whichever is later) and continue until around the age of 70 (as long as the last smear was normal).
Lesbian women also need to have regular pap tests.
All women are advised to have a pap test every two years to reduce their risk of developing cervical cancer. For some women, more frequent pap tests are recommended. (See your health practitioner to find out if this applies to you.)
It is important to remember that pap tests are screening tools. This means that the test will not diagnose 100 per cent of cervical cancers. Pap tests have a 10-15 per cent false negative rate, meaning 10-15 per cent of cancers can be missed. This is why it is important to continue regular screening.
Did you know?
Women who no longer have sex should continue to have a pap test because it may take some years for changes to develop.
Three out of four women who develop cervical cancer have never had a pap test or had not had a pap test in the five years before diagnosis.
Most women find the pap test painless, but sometimes it is uncomfortable. If the test hurts, let your health practitioner know.
Women over 70 who have never had a pap test and have been/are sexually active should be screened.
Girls or women who have had the cervical cancer vaccine (either before or after becoming sexually active), still need to continue having regular two-yearly pap tests as the vaccine only protects against 70 per cent of cervical cancers
The best time to have a pap test is in the middle of your cycle. Try not to schedule a test during your period or when there is a vaginal infection such as thrush, as either blood cells or infected cells will reduce the accuracy of the reading.
For more information about pap tests, go to www.healthforwomen.org.au/content/view/32/60/ or contact Cervical Screening Australia on 13 15 56 or visit www.cervicalscreen.health.gov.au
Published with the permission of the Jean Hailes Foundation for Women's Health
Tollfree number 1800 151 441 for women seeking further health information www.jeanhailes.org.au