Reducing your risk of cervical cancer

Pap tests save lives. They can detect the early signs of cervical cancer by exposing any presence of abnormal pre-cancerous cells in the cervix. Regular Pap tests can reduce your risk of being diagnosed with cervical cancer by up to 96%.

The Cancer Institute NSW recommends that all women who have ever been sexually active have a Pap test every two years commencing at age 18, or one to two years after first sexual activity, whichever is later. This stands even if you’ve had the cervical cancer vaccine.

Seeing your doctor for a regular Pap test is the best way to discover if you have an HPV infection that could develop into cancer. The test involves your GP using a brush to swipe cells from the surface of the cervix to be examined under a microscope. Taking just one to two minutes, it may be slightly uncomfortable but usually is not painful. If you have any concerns, you can discuss this with your GP prior to having the test with them.

In Australia, rates of cervical cancer have halved over the last 25 years due to the National Cervical Screening Program. While these rates continue to improve, data released by the Cancer Institute NSW during Cervical Cancer Awareness Week in November, shows that almost one million eligible women in this state are currently overdue for their Pap test. This is quite significant considering that most of the women who are diagnosed with cervical cancer, are those women who have not had regular Pap tests. This highlights more women in NSW need to prioritise cervical screening.

To learn more and to find your nearest GP or women’s health nurse that provides Pap tests, visit www.csp.nsw.gov.au or call the Pap Test Register Infoline on 13 15 56.