The Pap test was developed in the 1920s and remains the best screening test available for the early detection of cell changes that can lead to cervical cancer. PapScreen Victoria does not recommend any product or service other than having a Pap test every two years.
While some new screening techniques have been developed, they should only be used in addition to regular Pap tests.
Liquid-based cytology is an additional test to the Pap test. The Pap test is taken in the usual way, but in addition to preparing the regular slide of cells, the sampling instruments are either rinsed or collected in a liquid which is also sent to the laboratory.
Unnecessary material such as blood and bacteria are removed from the sample, before the cells are deposited onto a second slide for analysis. Liquid-based cytology will cost women from $36, in addition to any fee for their consultation. There is no Medicare rebate.
A test for detecting HPV types that can cause cervical cancer is available. Current national guidelines recommend HPV tests for women who have been treated for high-grade changes to cells in the cervix.
On 1 May 2017, the HPV test will replace the Pap test as the primary cervical screening method. The HPV test is a more effective way to detect cervical abnormalities earlier and will only be required every five years.
You can take part in a randomised controlled trial that compares a Pap test every 3.5 years to the HPV test every 5 years. Find out more on the Compass Trial website.
HPV self-collection is an effective alternative that may increase participation rates in women who do not attend for cervical creening or for those who are underscreened.
Self-collection methods will be offered to under-screened women by their clinicians as part of the changes to the National Cervical Screening Program in 2017.