The new PAP smear is here!

What has changed?
- The name has changed from PAP smear to "cervical screening".
- The starting age has changed from 18yo to 25yo.
- The finishing age has changed from 70yo to 74yo.
- The frequency has changed from 2 yearly to 5 yearly.
- The test has changed from looking for cancer changes in cells, to looking for the virus that causes over 99% of cervical cancers.

- What is the virus? Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is spread through sexual contact. Usually the immune system kills the virus over 1-2 years, but if your body cannot clear the virus it can cause cancer changes over 10-15 years.
- Can I treat the virus? No 🙁 There is no current medication to treat HPV, but it is usually cleared by your immune system.
- Do I need screening if I had HPV vaccination? YES
- Do I need screening if I am LGBTIQ? YES If you have a cervix, then screening is recommended.
- Has the collection changed? No. Collection of cells is the same, although alternative techniques are available for people who avoid screening.
- When should I get the new test done? You should get a letter when you are due for screening. If you have ever had a PAP test, this will be 2 years after your last PAP test if normal. If you have not had a PAP test, then it will be at 25yo.

Key Points:
- 80% of cervical cancer occurs in people who are overdue or unscreened. Please get checked.
- You need to test 2 years after your last test if it was normal.
- If you have abnormal symptoms, such as pain or bleeding with sex, or unexpected bleeding at any age, then see your GP asap.
Do NOT wait until your screening is due.

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Some things I want you to know ... and to share.

As a GP there are times I wish I could rewind the clock to bring people in sooner. There are times I wish I could shout from the rooftops about symptoms that are not normal and that should be checked as it could save a life. In the past year of my work the following situations stand out:

- If you start losing weight without trying and with no change to your diet or exercise, then please, no matter how many compliments you may get, please see your GP to investigate. This year I have diagnosed thyroid toxicosis, uncontrolled diabetes and lung cancer in people with unexplained weight loss. Early diagnosis can be life changing.

- If you are a woman who has gone through menopause and then after more than a year gets a period back, please see your GP to find out why. This is not typical and should be investigated.

- If you are worried about your child, then get them checked. Parents know their children best and if something is not right then see a doctor. If they dismiss your concerns, then see someone different that you trust. Don't be afraid to ask for a review ... children can change quickly, and can get very sick very quick, so follow up is vital.

- Mental health problems need attention. If your bone was broken you would get help. If your mood is broken, then seek help before it breaks your relationships, your career, your life.

If I could get one message out it would be to please see your GP if something is odd, different or concerning to you about your health or those close to you. It could save a life.

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R U OK today?

In Australia someone commits suicide every 3 hours - gone. And for every death, there are an estimated 30 suicide attempts.

Today is the day ask 'RU OK?' - to reach out to each other in order to reduce these shattering numbers.

The link below outlines 4 steps, including what to do when the answer is "No, I am not ok."
1. Ask - how are they going?
2. Listen - without judgement
3. Encourage action - lifestyle stuff and/or expert help
4. Check in - follow up in a couple of days or weeks

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