May is Pap Test Awareness Month and here at Geraldton Medical Group and University Medical Practice, we are proud to be offering bulk-billing Pap Test Clinics for women. In view of this I thought it would be a great opportunity to remind everyone about the importance of the Pap test.
The Pap test is a simple test to check for changes to the cells of the cervix that may lead to cervical cancer. A doctor takes a sample of cells from the cervix and puts them onto a glass slide. The slide is examined at the laboratory and the results are available within two weeks.
Most Pap test results are normal. A small number show changes in the cells of the cervix. Most of these changes are due to a minor infection (the Human Papilloma Virus) that clears up on its own. In a small number of cases when changes are not treated, they may turn into cervical cancer. That is why having a Pap test every two years is so important.
The Pap test looks for abnormal changes to the cells of the cervix that could turn into cervical cancer if not treated. It does not test for cervical cancer itself, which is why all women between the ages of 18 and 70 who have ever been sexually active should have a Pap test regardless of any symptoms. This process of testing the entire population is known as screening and is possible because the cervical cells go through a predictable series of changes before they become cancerous. Treatment at this stage is usually simple and successful. Cervical screening saves more than 1,200 women from cervical cancer each year. No screening test is 100 per cent accurate, but regular Pap tests remain the best way to prevent cervical cancer in all women.
If abnormal cell changes are found, further tests are done depending on the type of change. This may include more frequent Pap tests. Your doctor will be able to advise you on the appropriate treatment. A Pap test can find changes that can lead to the most common type of cervical cancer – squamous cell carcinoma. It is not as good at finding changes that can lead to another type of cancer, adenocarcinoma. However this type of cervical cancer is much less common. It is important to be aware that a Pap test does not check for ovarian cancer or any other types of cancer in the reproductive system. It also does not check for sexually transmitted infections.
There are a number of doctors at GMG with a special interest in women’s health and we look forward to welcoming women at the practice during the month of May to ensure you keep your Pap test up to date.
Post by Dr Kate Poland, Geraldton Medical Group
Below is a link to a You Tube Video from the Cancer Council WA which you may feel is helpful.