About 900 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in Australia each year. Cancer of the cervix (the neck of the uterus) is one of the most preventable cancers.
The HPV vaccine
Almost all cases of cervical cancer are caused by infection with high-risk types of the human papillomavirus (HPV). This is the biggest risk factor for cervical cancer.
The HPV vaccine protects against the two types of HPV that are responsible for 70–80% of cervical cancers. The vaccine is offered free to all children aged 12–13 through a national vaccination program. It does not protect against all cervical cancers, so if you’ve been vaccinated, it’s still important to have regular screening tests. Find out more about the HPV Vaccine.
National Cervical Screening Program
On 1 December 2017, Australia switched to a renewed Cervical Screening Program. Replacing the Pap test, the new more sophisticated test looks for the presence of the HPV which is the cause of the vast majority of cervical cancers. The new test means doctors can find women who could be at risk of developing cervical cancer in the future, one step earlier than was possible with the Pap test.
The screening program, offered by the Australian Government, is open to women aged 25-74.
What if I have symptoms?
A cervical screening test is a test for women who do not have symptoms.
If you have symptoms such as pain, abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge, always see your doctor straight away – regardless of your age or when you were last screened.
Smoking produces chemicals that may damage the cells of the cervix and make cancer more likely to develop. Quitting smoking or, better still, never starting, will reduce your risk of cervical cancer. If you would like to quit, talk to your doctor, call the Quitline on 13 7848, or visit icanquit.com.au