The Medical Services Advisory Committee, which decides which treatments should be funded by Medicare, approved a new HPV test to screen for cervical cancer today.
MSAC says a review of clinical evidence shows the new test is “even more effective than and just as safe as screening with a Pap test every two years”.
The bad news is that government funding for the test is unlikely to be available before 2016, with state and federal health ministers needing to agree whether or not to fund it.
And the procedure for collecting the sample for HPV testing is the same as the procedure for having a Pap smear.
A doctor or nurse must take a small sample of cells from the woman’s cervix to send to a laboratory to be examined.
MSAC has recommended cervical screening using the new test should commence at 25 years of age and women should be tested every five years until they have an exit test between age 70 and 74.
Women with cervical cancer symptoms or pain or bleeding should have a test at any age.
MSAC says the new test is more effective and will save more lives.
Women who have had the cervical cancer vaccine still require screening because the vaccine does not cover all the strains of the human papilloma virus that causes cervical cancer.
Just over half the women eligible for cervical cancer screening currently have a Pap smear test every two years.
The human papilloma virus causes nearly all cases of cervical cancer and that is why test aimed at this virus is likely to be more effective.
There are more than 40 genital HPV viruses and approximately 14 high-risk HPV types are associated with cervical cancer.
Welcomes new test … Professor Ian Olver, CEO of the Cancer Council of Australia. Source: News Limited
Cancer Council Australia CEO, Professor Ian Olver, has welcomed the approval of the new test.
He emphasised that the changes announced were recommendations only and that women should continue to have Pap tests every two years for now.
“The Pap test based screening program has been a great public health success story since its introduction in 1991 and is the main reason cervical cancer mortality rates in Australia are among the world’s lowest,” Professor Olver said.
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