Cervical cancer occurs when abnormal cells grow on the lining of the cervix forming a type of cancer and is caused by Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). In 2015 there were 857 new cases of cervical cancer within Australia. In 2016, cervical cancer accounted for 259 deaths in Australia, and since the introduction of the National Cervical Screening Program in 1991, deaths have halved in Australia.
Symptoms of Cervical Cancer
Without regular screening, HPV may go undetected for a number of years resulting in cervical cancer. Some of the most common signs of the abnormal growth of cells in a women’s cervix are:
- vaginal bleeding between periods
- menstrual bleeding that is longer or heavier than usual
- bleeding after intercourse
- pain during intercourse
- unusual vaginal discharge
- vaginal bleeding after menopause
Testing of Cervical Cancer
Testing for cervical cancer was previously done through a Pap smear test every two years for women aged between 18 and 70 years old. The new screening test is similar to a pap smear test where a nurse or a doctor takes a sample of cells from the cervix. The new test looks for HPV infection rather than just abnormal cells on the cervix. The new HPV test can identify women who could be at risk of cervical cancer earlier than the pap test could, according to the Cancer Council. Women aged 25-74 are advised to be tested within two years after their last Pap smear test, then every 5 years if the results were normal.
Prevention of Cervical Cancer
Since the HPV Vaccine program was introduced in 2007, cervical abnormalities among women below the age of 25 have continuously dropped which means that cervical cancer in women younger than 25 is becoming more rare. The HPV Vaccine is the best way for women to protect themselves against cervical cancer and is administered to women when they are aged 12-13 years.
If you are worried about possible symptoms or if you are wanting to speak to a health professional to get more information, book an online appointment with an Australian Registered GP. Visit www.doctorsondemand.com.au and access advice and treatment with one of our online doctors today.