Thu 8 May 2014
The Government’s expert advisory committee on medical matters; the Medical Services Advisory Committee (MSAC), has just released its recommendation that Pap smears be phased out and replaced with five-yearly human papillomavirus (HPV) testing for cervical cancer.
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The MSAC has also recommended the starting age for screening should be set at 25. The current recommendation is that women have their first Pap smear between the ages of 18 and 20 (or a year or two after becoming sexually active). The procedure for obtaining a sample is essentially the same as for having a Pap smear but will not need to be done as often. The new test would be done every 5 years instead of every 2 years.
The statement from the Federal Health Department said: "The independent expert committee accepted the latest scientific evidence that shows this new screening approach will work even better by detecting human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, which we now know to be the first step in developing cervical cancer. MSAC found that a HPV test every five years is even more effective than, and just as safe as, screening with a Pap test every two years. MSAC also determined that a HPV test every five years can save more lives and women will need fewer tests than in the current two yearly Pap test program."
Ian Olver, Chief Executive of Cancer Council Australia said that; “In its first 10 years, the Pap test based program reduced deaths from cervical cancer by 50 per cent. The HPV test is predicted to reduce mortality by a further 15 per cent. “
Sydney Morning Herald
Australian Medical Association
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