how to know if you should get a cervical screening test

Do I need a Cervical Screening Test?

Why is cervical screening so important for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people?

InnerCircleWeb1.png

What if my healthcare provider told me I don’t need one?

Anyone with a cervix, regardless of gender identity, sexuality or sexual history, is at risk and needs regular cervical screening.

HPV causes 99.7% of cervical cancers. HPV can be transmitted through any kind of sexual contact, including vaginal/front hole sex, anal sex, oral sex, genital skin-to-skin contact, fingering, fisting or sharing sex toys.

HPV is also incredibly common. Most people will have HPV at some point in their lives, so even if you’ve only had one sexual partner, you need cervical screening.

Back to top

Do I need a Cervical Screening Test if I’ve only had one sexual partner?

Yes! HPV is very common. Most people will have HPV at some point in their lives, so even if you’ve only had one sexual partner, you need cervical screening.

Back to top

My doctor says I don’t need cervical screening because I’m a lesbian.

If you have a cervix, regardless of how you identify or who you have sex with, you are at risk of cervical cancer. HPV is very common and can be transmitted through any kind of sexual contact.

Back to top

I don’t have sex that involves penetration. Do I still need to get a Cervical Screening Test?

Yes. HPV can be transmitted through any kind of sexual contact, including genital skin-to-skin contact, oral sex, fingering, and sharing sex toys.

Back to top

I’m asexual / I haven’t had sex in years. Do I still need a Cervical Screening Test?

Yes. If you have a cervix and have ever been sexually active (with anyone), you need regular cervical screening, even if you are currently not sexually active. It often takes years – on average 10 years – for an HPV infection to develop into cervical cancer, so it’s important to keep screening even if it’s been a long time since you were sexually active.

Back to top

Do trans men need to get a cervical screening test?

Yes. Trans men who have a cervix and are 25 years of age or older are at risk of cervical cancer and need regular cervical screening.

People who have a vagina/front hole and don’t have a cervix are still able to get a test that is similar to the Cervical Screening Test (in that it can test for the presence of HPV and look for any changes to the cells of the vagina/front hole).

If you’ve had a full hysterectomy (meaning you used to have a cervix and don’t anymore), talk to your doctor about whether you need to continue to have the test – it will depend on your medical history before you had the hysterectomy.

Back to top

What if I’m on testosterone?

Yes. Being on T doesn’t reduce your risk of developing cervical cancer.

For some people on testosterone (and some post-menopausal people), hormonal changes to the vagina/front hole can mean getting a good sample of cells from the cervix can be difficult and can make the procedure uncomfortable. You might need to get a prescription from your GP for topical oestrogen before your Cervical Screening Test – it’s only temporary and rarely has any side effects, and it can make the procedure far less uncomfortable.

Some people are eligible for self-collection, where you use a swab to take a sample from the vagina/front hole yourself (so no speculum!), which is then tested for HPV.

This test isn’t as accurate as the one taken by a clinician, but if you’ve never been screened or are overdue – then it’s worth getting it done. If you test positive for HPV, you will have to come back in for more testing to make sure there are no pre-cancerous changes in the cells of your cervix.

Back to top

I had the Gardasil vaccine at school. Do I still need cervical screening?

Yes. The Gardasil vaccine protects against the two most common types of HPV that can cause cervical cancer (HPV 16 and 18) but not all of them.

Back to top

I just had a Pap test. When is my next Cervical Screening Test due?

If you’re 25 or over and your last Pap test was all clear, you’ll be due for your first Cervical Screening Test in 2 years. If your last Pap test detected any abnormalities, talk to your doctor or healthcare provider about the next steps.

Back to top

Do I still need cervical screening if I’ve been through menopause?

Yes. If you’ve ever been sexually active (with anyone), it’s important to continue screening until you have a final Cervical Screening Test when you’re 70-74 years old.

For some post-menopausal people (and some people who use testosterone), hormonal changes to the vagina/front hole can mean getting a good sample of cells from the cervix can be difficult and can make the procedure uncomfortable. You might need to get a prescription from your GP for topical oestrogen before your Cervical Screening Test – it’s only temporary and rarely has any side effects, and it can make the procedure far less uncomfortable.

Some people are eligible for self-collection, where you use a swab to take a sample from the vagina/front hole yourself (so no speculum!), which is then tested for HPV.

This test isn’t as accurate as the one taken by a clinician, but if you’ve never been screened or are overdue – then it’s worth getting it done.

If you test positive for HPV, you will have to come back in for more testing to make sure there are no pre-cancerous changes in the cells of your cervix.

Back to top

I’ve had a hysterectomy. Do I still need cervical screening?

If you had a full hysterectomy where your uterus was entirely removed, including the cervix, you don’t require cervical screening.
People who don’t have a cervix are still able to get a test that is similar to the Cervical Screening Test (in that it can test for the presence of HPV and look for any changes to the cells of the vagina).

If you’ve had a full hysterectomy talk to your doctor about whether you need to continue to have the test – it will depend on your medical history before you had the hysterectomy.

If you had a partial hysterectomy, which preserves the cervix, you will definitely need to continue cervical screening. It’s best to discuss your ongoing needs with your GP or healthcare provider.

Back to top

What if I don’t have a cervix? Should I get tested for HPV?

Some people have vaginas but don’t have a cervix. This can include some trans women, some trans men, some intersex people and people who’ve had full hysterectomies.

People who don’t have a cervix are still able to get a test that is similar to the Cervical Screening Test (in that it can test for the presence of HPV and look for any changes to the cells of the vagina).

If you’ve had a full hysterectomy (meaning you used to have a cervix and don’t anymore), talk to your doctor about whether you need to continue to have the test – it will depend on your medical history before you had the hysterectomy.

There isn’t a lot of research on trans women and cancer screening, but the risk of developing "cancer of the neo-vagina" (as it's known in medical terminology) for trans women or other people who have had vaginoplasty (or other surgeries to create a vagina) is thought to be very small.

The risk of cancer developing from HPV will depend on what type of surgery you have had as well as your personal health history (things like previous HPV infections, HIV or auto-immune conditions).

The vast majority of people will get a strain of HPV at some point during their life and most people who get HPV will fight off the virus without ever knowing they have it.

HPV testing for people who weren't born with a cervix isn’t usually covered by Medicare and isn’t part of a standard STI test. If you’re really worried, talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of HPV testing.

If you got the HPV vaccine, you’re protected against some, but not all, of the strains of HPV that cause the most problems. The vaccine works best when you get it as a young person, but it can still be worthwhile getting it as an adult. Talk to your doctor about whether getting the vaccine is a good choice for you.

If you have any symptoms, including unusual bleeding or pain, you should see a doctor right away.

Back to top