Cervical Screening Test

Cervical screening, HPV and pregnancy

A good understanding of cervical health, including screening tests, HPV and cervical cancer, can be essential to boosting your chances of a healthy pregnancy. Dr. Hema Grover a specialist in gynaecology at Mitcham Private Hospital, explains the basics of cervical screening.

The new pap smear

The Cervical Screening Test, or CST, is a new type of test that has replaced the pap smear. This test is more effective than the pap smear at preventing cervical cancers.

The CST detects presence of Human Papillomavirus (HPV) which can cause cervical changes. These changes can in turn lead to cervical cancer. Unlike the old type of pap smear, this test is only required every five years if the result is normal.

What is HPV?

HPV is a very common virus, with four out of five people having it at some stage of their lives. Most of the time, the body’s immune system gets rid of the virus before it does harm.

HPV is spread through genital skin contact during sexual activity. As viruses are microscopic, HPV can pass through tiny breaks in the skin. HPV is not spread in blood or other body fluids, so condoms do not necessarily assist in preventing it.

Because the virus can be hidden in a person’s cells for a long time, having a diagnosis of HPV does not necessarily mean that you or your partner has been unfaithful.

HPV and cervical cancer

There are more than 100 types of HPV, but the two known to cause cervical cancer in most of the cases are HPV 16 and 18. If your Cervical Screening Test is positive for either of these types of HPV, you will be referred to a specialist for further tests and possible treatment.

Most women who get 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.