Why don’t I need a Cervical Screening Test?
As a young woman, you may be wondering why you no longer need to be screened for cervical cancer until you are 25.
The short answer is that cervical cancer is extremely rare in women under 25, and cervical screening does not appear to have been effective for women your age.
There are around 10-15 cases of cervical cancer a year in women under 25 in Australia. There are about 900 cases a year in total for all women.
Before the HPV vaccine program, older women were five times more likely than women aged 20-24 to develop cervical cancer. The HPV vaccine will put women under 25 at an even lower risk.
Screening doesn’t seem to work in women under 25
A study conducted by Cancer Council NSW found that overall cervical cancer rates dropped dramatically (by around half) in women aged 25 years or older since the beginning of Pap smear tests in 1991. But regular Pap smear tests don’t seem to have the same benefit in women aged 20- 24, as cancer rates in that age group did not drop as much as other age groups.
The HPV vaccine will help protect you
Since the HPV vaccination program was introduced in 2007, cervical abnormalities among women younger than 25 have been dropping. This means that cervical cancer itself will become even more rare in women younger than 25.
Studies have shown that even young women who aren’t vaccinated are at lower risk of infection than in the past – thanks to what scientists call ‘herd immunity’, it has become harder for HPV to spread.
“Australian women under 25 today were offered the HPV vaccination when they were younger than 15, and we know that the HPV vaccine is very effective when it is given at that age.”– Megan Smith, Program Manager, Cervix/HPV Group at Cancer Council NSW