Paps smear or CST?

on 19 Jul 2021 7:18 AM
Photo of a clear plastic speculum

Photo of a plastic speculum, commonly used in a Cervical Screening Test
 

Since December 1st 2017, the Pap smear has been replaced by a HPV or Cervical Screening Test (CST). These changes are a result of new evidence, better technology and improved early detection of cervical changes and possible cervical cancers.

Graphic model of HPV

Model of a Human Papillomavirus

A Pap smear looked for abnormal cells in the cervix. While the cervical screening test looks for the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) that can cause abnormal cells in the cervix. It picks up the infection before it can make cells abnormal that can lead to cervical cancer. The new test for HPV can identify people who could be at risk of cervical changes and cancer earlier than the Pap smear could.

This also means that the test doesn't have to be done as often because it is much more sensitive and specific. The Pap smear used to have be taken every 2 years. The new CST only needs to be taken every 5 years. The process for the test is the same. A doctor or nurse inserts a speculum and looks at the cervix and then takes a sample with a soft brush, then removes the speculum.

There are also currently changes allowing people to collect the cervical sample themselves with a swab. *watch this space!*

A Pap smear looked for abnormal cells in the cervix, while the cervical screening test looks for the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) that can cause abnormal cells in the cervix. It picks up the infection before it can make cells abnormal that can lead to cervical cancer. The new test for HPV can identify people who could be at risk of cervical changes and cancer earlier than the Pap smear could.

This also means that the test doesn't have to be done as often because it is much more sensitive and specific. The Pap smear used to have be taken every 2 years. The new CST only needs to be taken every 5 years. The process for the test is the same. A doctor or nurse inserts a speculum and looks at the cervix and then takes a sample with a soft brush, then removes the speculum.

Photo of a HPV vaccine bottle

The HPV vaccine protects against many high-risk HPV types.

Things to know:

  • The two-yearly Pap smear has been replaced by the new five-yearly HPV cervical screening test (CST).
  • The main cause of cervical cancer is long term infection with certain strains of the human papilloma virus (HPV).
  • HPV testing is a much better test for determining future risk of developing cervical cancer.
  • Cervical screening now starts at age 25.
  • People who start having sexual contact before the age of 14 and who did not receive the vaccine can be tested from age 20.
  • No matter how you identify, if you have a cervix it is recommended that you have a cervical screening test.
  • If you have previously had a Pap smear test, you should have your first HPV test two years after your last Pap test. 
  • Vaccination with Gardasil 9 protects against 9 strains of HPV and is available through local doctors (at a cost).

 

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