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The National Cervical Screening Program is changing

November 28, 2017

From 1 December 2017, the National Cervical Screening Program (NCSP) will be changing due to:

  • new evidence about the optimal screening age range and interval;
  • the availability of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine;
  • developments in new technologies for the early detection of cervical cancer.

There will be significant changes to the program commencing on December 1.

For the Patient:

  • the Pap smear will be replaced with the more accurate Cervical Screening Test
  • the way the test is performed will look and feel the same for the patient
  • the age at which screening starts will increase from 18 years to 25 years
  • the first Cervical Screening Test is due at 25 years of age or two years after the last Pap test
  • the time between subsequent tests will be five years
  • an alternate method of collection is available but patients must meet the eligibility criteria; be over 30 years of age and be overdue for their screening test by two years or more.
  • women aged 70 to 74 years will be invited to have an exit test

 For the Doctor:

  • you will need to know the differences between the MBS items and provide as much information on the pathology request form as possible
  • you will need to fill in pathology request forms as per the Pathology Test Guide to ensure that the correct test is ordered
  • when requesting a ‘Cervical Screening Test’ the specimen will be tested for HPV, and a reflex liquid-based cytology will be performed if HPV is detected
  • if you write ‘Pap test’ or ‘smear’ on the pathology request form, your patient will be charged
  • the sample medium will need to be liquid-based (no fixed slides)
  • results will be classified as low risk result, intermediate risk result or higher risk
  • the results determine the screening interval and follow up tests

 Other Practice changes:

  • healthcare providers will need to update their practice patient reminder and recall systems in line with the new pathways and screening intervals.

Further information is available on the National Cervical Screening Program website. Clinicians can also update their knowledge through the free online, training modules (RACGP accredited) on the NPS website

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