Women who have had HPV vaccination (human papillomavirus) still need to have regular Pap smears until the age of 70.
Almost all abnormal Pap smears and cancer of the cervix (the neck of the womb) are caused by HPV. Vaccination protects women against the 2 main types of HPV which cause about 70% of cervical cancer. However, it does not give protection for the remaining 30% of cases.
The HPV vaccine was introduced into Australia in 2007 and has already proven to be safe and effective. There has been a reduction in both abnormal Pap smear results in women under 18 years and genital warts in the community.
Free HPV vaccine is available for girls aged 12–13 years at school. Girls who miss the school program and young women can be vaccinated by their GP up till the age of 45 years.
Pap smears. How, when, who, why?
Pap smears detect changes in the cervix which could lead to cancer. Early detection and treatment of these changes can prevent up to 90% of cervical cancer cases.
The Pap smear is a quick and simple test in which cells are collected from the cervix with a brush or spatula. The conventional Pap test involves the cells being smeared onto a slide which is sent to a laboratory for testing.
An alternative and newer technique is for your GP to place the cells in a liquid solution. In the lab, the cells are spread in a thin, even layer on a glass slide which is examined by a specialised computer. This method is significantly more effective than the conventional Pap smear at finding disease. You doctor may offer you this service for which there is an additional charge.
Women who have ever been sexually active should have a Pap test from age 18-20 or 1-2 years after first having sex, whichever is later. Two-yearly testing is recommended even if you are no longer having sex. Further Pap smears are not usually required after a hysterectomy.
Ask your GP if you are up-to-date.
- Please note this information was correct at time of publication.
- For up to date information, speak to your doctor.