A few of the many types of HPV have been linked with causing abnormalities of the cervix and in some cases the development of cancer of the cervix. It is important to remember that most women who have HPV clear the virus naturally and do not go on to develop cervical cancer.
In a small number of women, the HPV stays in the cells of the cervix. When the infection is not cleared, there is an increased risk of developing abnormalities. In very rare cases, these abnormalities of the cervix can progress to cancer. When cervical cancer develops, HPV is found in almost all cases. Having regular Pap smears is the best way to ensure that any changes are monitored and managed to protect your health.
If you have early cell changes due to HPV, there is a h3 likelihood that these changes will clear up naturally in 8 to 14 months. This, and the fact that cancer of the cervix takes around 10 years to develop, your doctor may recommend simply having another Pap smear in 12 months time.
The cervical cancer vaccination does not protect all HPV types that cause cervical cancer and therefore it is important that vaccinated women continue with regular Pap screening. All women over 18 who have ever had sex are advised to have a Pap smear every two years, even if they no longer have sex. If a woman starts sexual activity at a younger age, screening should start within two years of first sexual intercourse.
As the most common type of cervical cancer usually takes up to 10 years to develop, there is little advantage in having a Pap smear more frequently than every two years. Your general practitioner may recommend more frequent Pap smears if a previous smear showed significant cell changes or you experience problems, such as bleeding or pain after sex.
Screening for breast cancer
Breast cancer is the most common cancer that affects women in Victoria. Please ask your doctor for information regarding regular breast examinations (checking for lumps) or if you have any concerns.
Breast Screen Australia services provide FREE screening to all women over 40 and specifically targets women aged 50-69 years. There are currently over 500 screening locations via fixed, relocatable and mobile screening units covering urban, rural and remote areas. Women over 50 should call 13 20 50 every two years to book their FREE screening mammogram at a screening and assessment service nearest to them.