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Feature Article

Cervical screening in the HPV era: don’t ditch the Pap test!

Deborah Bateson, Hilary Bower, Mary Stewart

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Abstract

Despite ever increasing developments in our understanding of the role of the human papillomavirus (HPV) in relation to cervical cancer, the Pap test remains the cornerstone of our successful cervical screening program.

Key Points

  • The Pap test remains the cornerstone for the detection of premalignant HPV-related changes in the cervix, yet almost 40% of women in Australia remain unscreened.
  • HPV infection is common, with 80% of women being infected with at least one genital type of HPV in their lifetime.
  • Although HPV DNA testing is likely to play an increasingly significant role in cervical screening worldwide, it has no current role in the Australian screening program.
  • The development of vaccines to prevent HPV infection has provided a primary prevention tool against cervical and other HPV-related cancers, such as anal and throat cancers.
  • It is essential to continue performing Pap tests according to the recommended screening guidelines regardless of a woman’s HPV vaccine history.

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