Why have the guidelines around cervical screenings changed?
The Australian Medical Board recommends that anyone with a cervix should have a cervical screening at 25 years old unless they experience abnormal symptoms.
Symptoms to look out for are:
vaginal bleeding between periods
menstrual bleeding that is longer or heavier than usual
bleeding after intercourse
pain during intercourse
unusual vaginal discharge
vaginal bleeding after menopause.
Source: Cancer Council.
The Cervical Screening Test looks for human papilloma virus (HPV). This is a common sexually transmitted infection, it is estimated that 70% of the worlds population contracts it at some point in their lifetime. HPV is normal, it's nothing to feel shame about.
If your cervical screening returns abnormal, this means your cervical cells are showing HPV. In most cases, HPV will go away on its own, if not, which is also common, you may be referred to a specialist for a biopsy for further testing.
Cervical screenings were previously called pap smears. This is a similar test and feels the same when it is being performed by your doctor. The new cervical screening test is more accurate and needs to be performed less frequently.