The New National Cervical Screening for Australian General Practices

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Cervical Cancer affects women both throughout Australia and abroad. Unfortunately, about 800 women in Australia are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year, and whilst Cervical cancer can develop in women at any age, it is far more common in women aged over 40.

Thanks to Australian researchers, healthcare providers now have a better way to protect women from Cervical Cancer for far longer and with a significantly reduced amount of required testing. However, recent studies undertaken by Australian Cancer Council researchers has proved that screening DNA is incredibly more effective than the conventional Pap Smear test at identifying the Cervical Cancer causing Human Papillomavirus (HPV).

Why is the new National Cervical Screening better than the traditional Pap Smear test?

As we’ve eluded to already, the new national Cervical Screening is a far more powerful tool at protecting women from Cervical Cancer than the traditional Pap Smear test. For many years, Women have been required to complete a Pap Smear test every 24 months to ensure that they are not at risk of Cervical Cancer. Now thanks to Australian researchers, the new national Cervical Screening can look for HPV virus cells that lead to HPV, a virus that is typically the precursor of almost all cases of Cervical Cancer. In fact, HPV is the leading cause of Cervical Cancer with over 99% of all cases related to the presence of the virus.

With the new national Cervical Screening program, Australian women can be protected from Cervical Cancer for a greater period of time with a reduced number of testings needed to be completed. Instead of having regular tests every two years to identify cancerous cells, the Cervical Screening cytology gives practices the power to find HPV cells before the virus takes hold, giving healthcare providers years more time to fight cervical cancer before it even starts. The new Cervical Screening is effectively an early warning indication program that is set to lower cervical cancer mortality rates by at least 20 per cent.

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What does this mean for patients?

For patients, the procedure will be exactly the same. The way that Cervical Screening is carried out means that patients undergoing to the test will notice no difference in the actual test itself and the way in which DNA is extracted. The new Cervical Screening test will check for the presence of the HPV virus linked to cervical cancer rather than cell changes caused by the virus itself. However, the big game changer is that patients will no longer have to go every two years, rather, they will only need to be tested once every five years. To put that into perspective, over the course of a decade a patient will only need to be tested twice, rather than five times.

Which patients does your practice need to test?

The new National Cervical Screening program is for patients aged between 25 years and 74 years. The program has raised the age at which screening starts from 18 years to 25 years. Fortunately for young adults, Cervical Cancer is rare in people under the age of 25, as the HPV virus typically takes at least 10 to 15 years to develop cervical cancer. Finally, the time between tests has been increased from two years to five years. As of December 2017 patients aged 70 to 74 years are eligible for an “exit test”.

Also of importance is those patients whom are under screened and who are over 30 years of age. These patients will now be able to participate in a self-collection option of the National Cervical Screening program.

What should your practice communicate to patients?

From the 1st of December 2017 the new National Cervical Screening program will be in full effect. In light of this, your practice will need to change its communications with patients to reflect the changes that have come with the new Cervical Screening program throughout Australia.

If you are using a practice recall and patient reminder system you will need to update the specific terminology your practice may have been using.

Instead of ‘Pap Smear’, your practice will now need to use the term ‘Cervical Screening’.

If you are using a patient engagement system to inform patients about Cervical Screening, you will need to change the target patient demographics.

Patients under the age of 25 years are no longer eligible for the Cervical Cancer screening program, so, your practice will need to now exclude patients under the age of 25 years from being informed about the program. Furthermore, you will need to make the target demographic no older than 69 years. This is because of the new “exit test” for patients between the ages of 70 and 74 years.

Using a patient engagement system your practice can broadcast messages to patients aged 70 to 74 years to invite them to book an “exit test” under the National Cervical Screening program.

Find out more about our patient engagement, patient recalls and reminders, and online booking app and web widget platform Appointuit here.



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