FAQ

HPV & CERVICAL CANCER

Is there a test for HPV?
HPVs are extremely common with 80% of people having the virus in their life. There are over 100 different types of HPV, the majority of which are not nasty so currently HPV testing is rarely done. For women, regular Pap tests remain the best way to detect abnormal cells on the cervix caused by HPV.

At the time of writing, there were proposed changes in recommendation stage to the National Cervical Screening Program which would include a shift to HPV testing, rather than a traditional Pap test. These changes are currently in recommendation stage and if approved are not expected to take affect until 2016 at the earliest. You can read more about the proposed changes here.

 

Can you still get a HPV if you are a virgin?
Yes you can. Unlike some STIs HPV is not transmitted via bodily fluids, rather it is transmitted via skin to skin contact. If you are or have been intimate with someone who has been exposed to HPV, there is a chance you could contract a HPV even without penetration, through mouth or genital contact.

 

Can you still get HPV if you wear a condom?
As HPV is transmitted via skin to skin contact rather than bodily fluids condoms cannot provide full protection from contracting HPV. HPV can also be contracted through oral and any genital contact rather than just penetration so while condoms do provide some protection, they can not fully protect against HPV.

 

What if I have missed a dose at school?
If you miss a dose at school, and are still in the eligible year level, you can ‘catch up’ that dose for free through a GP or local immunisation provider. If you are no longer in the eligible year levels, the vaccine will need to be purchased at a cost of $150 per dose, or $450 in total from a GP. This is the case for both boys and girls. Some local council’s provide the vaccine at free clinics to students one year outside of the eligible year level but parents would need to check this with their local council as each varies. Note: all students (under 18) must have parental permission to receive the vaccine.

 

Can older boys get the vaccine now?
In 2013 and 2014 a catch up program for boys aged 14-15 was run for free through schools. Similar to older girls, boys (ideally before beginning sexual activity) can go to the doctor and pay to get the vaccination which is $450 for 3 shots over 6 months.


Is cervical cancer hereditary?

The majority of cases of cervical cancer develop from contracting the Human Papilloma Virus. As this is a virus you contract; there is currently no evidence that you are any more predisposed to developing cervical cancer if your mother or grandmother had it.

 

How do people die from cervical cancer?
The source or location of cancerous cells are different for different forms of cancer, therefore treatment is different depending on the type. Normal cells divide a certain number of times before they expire making way for new healthy cells however the cancer cells are immortal. Cell division is rapid as well as unlimited, so these rapidly dividing malignant cells compete with the normal cells for nutrients and oxygen. Ultimately normal cells die off due to nutrition depletion.

Sometimes these cancer cells obstruct certain passages e.g.: Gastro intestinal tract, blood vessel, bilary tract, urinary tract and take nutrients and oxygen. This could ultimately lead to death of the person with the cancerous cells.

 

Have they found a cure for cervical cancer yet?
There is no cure yet as such, they are working on a vaccine for women who have already contracted HPV, but it is still a way off. There are effective treatments however such as different types of surgery and chemotherapy that can rid the body of cancer completely, as is the case with all types of cancer. Like most forms of cancer, the effectiveness of these treatments are dependent on the stage and type of the cancer.

 

How does smoking affect the possibility of getting cancer?
Women who smoke are about twice as likely as non-smokers to get cervical cancer. Smoking exposes the body to many cancer-causing chemicals that affect organs other than the lungs. These harmful substances are absorbed through the lungs and carried in the bloodstream throughout the body. Tobacco by-products have been found in the cervical mucus of women who smoke. Researchers believe that these substances damage the DNA of cervix cells and may contribute to the development of cervical cancer. Smoking also makes the immune system less effective in fighting HPV infections.

 

Does cervical cancer treatment affect women’s ability to have kids?
It depends on the case, the degree of the cancer and what is deemed the most appropriate treatment based on a variety of factors. Treatment may be in the form of surgery but not all women with cervical cancer will need major surgery. Removal of the cervix and uterus (hysterectomy) to completely rid the body of cancerous cells may be a part of a treatment program in severe cases of cervical cancer. Factors such as a woman’s age and if they already have children would be considered.

There have been cases of younger women having a radical trachelectomy and pelvic lymphadenectomy, which meant while they have undergone radical surgery they can still have children. Chelsea Farry, one of ACCF’s ambassadors underwent this surgery and tells her story.

There is a great video from the Cancer Council made for parents about myths associated with the vaccine.

PAP TESTS

I am under 18 but am sexually active, should I get a Pap test?
Doctors advise that even if you are sexually active before you are 18 you should only commence Pap tests once you turn 18. However, you should always consult your doctor if you are concerned.


How will I know if I have HPV?

Approximately four out of five people will contract HPV at some point in their life. Most of these people will not know that they have contracted the virus and in the majority of cases it will clear up naturally. There are around 100 different types of HPV and some of these can cause ‘low risk symptoms’ such as genital warts. However, the majority, including those that most commonly lead to cervical cancer, do not carry any noticeable symptoms. Most types of HPV will clear up before you even know that you have it.

The most effective way to detect HPV is through regular Pap tests, 2 yearly or as recommended by your doctor.

 

I have had a full hysterectomy, do I still need to have a Pap test?
It is important, no matter what type of hysterectomy or surgery you have has, you should discuss you need for Pap tests with your doctor. Women who have had a hysterectomy usually do not require further Pap smears, however, in some cases, Pap tests may still be needed.

Women who have had a total hysterectomy, that is, the uterus and cervix removed, and have ever had treatment for severe changes on the cervix, are recommended to continue to have smears taken from the upper vagina (known as vault smears).

  • Women who have had a hysterectomy but have never had a Pap smear should also have a vault smear.
  • Women who have had a partial hysterectomy, where the cervix is not removed, should still have a Pap smear every two years.

Many women do not know exactly what type of hysterectomy they had. If you are not sure, it is important to find out by speaking to your doctor.

 

I’ve been through menopause; do I still need to have a Pap test?
Pap tests are recommended every 2 years from the age of 18-69, unless your doctor advises otherwise. The risk of getting cervical cancer is the same even after menopause so it is important to keep having Pap smears every two years, even after menopause.

 

When should I stop having Pap tests?
Pap tests are recommended every 2 years from the age of 18-69, unless your doctor advises otherwise. If you are 70 years or over and have had two normal Pap test in the last five years, you do not have to keep having Pap test, but you can continue to if you would like to. Women who are over 70 years who have never had a Pap tesy, or any woman who requests a Pap smear, can make an appointment to be screened.

 

Where can I go to get a Pap test?

  • Your general practitioner;
  • a community or women’s health centre;
  • a family planning or sexual health clinic;
  • a women’s health nurse; or
  • an Aboriginal Medical Service.

Some women feel uncomfortable seeing their regular GP for a Pap test. It is important you find a GP, nurse or clinic you feel comfortable with and it is important to remember that that 2 minutes could literally save your life.

 

What is Get the Pap Text?
“Get the Pap Text” is an initiative of ACCF to reduce the number of Australian women who suffer or die each year from cervical cancer.

Get the Pap Text is an SMS reminder sent to women during the month they nominate they are due for their 2-yearly Pap test. More than 2.5 million women in Australia every year are not having their Pap tests as regularly as recommended. Alarmingly, out of the women who are not having regular Pap tests, over 80,000 will have abnormalities and not know it.

 

90% of women who die from cervical cancer have not had regular Pap tests so it’s one of our key goals to encourage women to have frequent pap tests.

 

Women may already receive a letter from their GP or your State/Territory Cervical Screening Register reminding them that their Pap test is due. However, if they were to move location the reminder may not get to them. The SMS does not replace this letter, but rather acts as another reminder.

SUPPORTING ACCF

How do I donate to ACCF?
Donations can be made by secure credit card on our website here, by cheque posted to PO Box 1008 Fortitude Valley QLD 4006 or over the phone using credit card.

 

Can I fundraise for ACCF?
Absolutely! All fundraisers must put in an application to fundraise and ACCF staff can help them with resources required and any ideas you may have. If you want to participate in an event and fundraise for ACCF (such as a fun run or similar), you can, for more information check out our website or contact ACCF.

 

Where does ACCF receive its funds?
ACCF’s majority income comes from the sale of raffle tickets. Purchase tickets or learn more.

We also rely greatly on donations and fundraising from generous individuals, groups and organisations as well as grants from philanthropic foundations and organisations. Currently, ACCF does receive any funds from government.

 

Can I volunteer with ACCF?
Volunteers are the backbone of ACCF’s work and we simply couldn’t achieve our mission without them. In Brisbane, we have a number of office volunteers working in various roles but in other states, at present volunteering is mostly limited to one-off events and presenting to school groups and community groups. If you’re interested in any of the above, contact ACCF!

 

What is the TechNO Challenge?
The premise is simple: turn off your screens this September – whether it’s your mobile, laptop, tablet, TV, gaming consoles or all of them – for 12, 24 or 48 hours and get sponsored to do so.

Learn more and register.

While the challenge is certainly aimed at high-school aged students any one can be involved. If you want to take it on, we certainly encourage you to register, or, even better, if you have high school aged children, encourage them to take it on and help them with it. Kids aged under 11 might not be suitable as there is a lot of messaging similar to what we talk about in CCAPS.

 

How much does VoluntTOURing cost?
This depends on the destination and duration of the trip. $4500pp is rough figure for a 10 day trip. This does not include your fundraising pledge and some of our travel costs can be fundraised. As soon as you register you are supported the entire way through your fundraising and preparation by ACCF staff and fundraising coaches. Would you like more information?

 

How do I take on a Real Life Challenge?
ACCF established an adventure challenge program for schools in partnership with travel partners, World Expeditions, in October 2009. Our first ‘Real Life Challenge’ group went to Nepal, with students seeing firsthand the lifesaving work ACCF does in schools and clinics in the Kathmandu valley.

The program is life-changing and designed to facilitate teamwork, planning and leadership skills. The Real Life Challenge is about fostering positive, capable young people, who are potential leaders of the future, as well as building lifelong friendships and networks.

Real Life Challenges should be undertaken with your school and is open to year 10-12 students. ACCF is able to tailor the challenge to suit the most appropriate time and program for the school. Costs are negotiated with the school but a trip can be achieved for approximately $3,900 per student.

If you are student wanting to undertake a Real Life Challenge talk to your grade coordinator to see if it is something the school can organise. The school can then contact Julie Weston or Erin McCabe on 07 3177 1099 to get the process started!

 

FACTS & FIGURES

  • 43% of Australian women aren’t having the recommended 2-yearly Pap tests*
  • 57% of 18-25 year olds are not having the recommended 2-yearly Pap tests*
  • 90% of women who die from cervical cancer have not had regular Pap tests so it’s one of our key goals to encourage women to have frequent pap tests.**
  • Get the Pap Text is the first initiative in Australia where women can sign up for free to be reminded about when their Pap test is due by SMS
  • Most cases of cervical cancer are caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) which is spread by genital-skin to genital-skin contact during sexual activity***
  • 80% of people will come into contact with HPV at some point in their lives***
  • The Gardasil Vaccine guards against two high-risk HPV types – 16 and 18 which cause around 70% of HPV. It is not 100% protection so women who have been vaccinated still need to have Pap tests.***
  • Cervical cancer is usually highly treatable if detected early so Pap tests are key to preventing death from cervical cancer.***
  • Worldwide, 270,000 women die from cervical cancer each year. 85% of those women are in developing countries.^
  • Indigenous women have 4 times greater risk of dying from cervical cancer than other Australian women.^^
  • Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women and seventh overall, with an estimated 528,000 new cases worldwide in 2015. ^^
  • Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women living in less developed regions with an estimated 445 000 new cases in 2012 (84% of the new cases worldwide).^
  • Almost 90% of cervical cancer deaths occur in less developed regions, due to the lack of screening programs. ^^^

*Cervical screening in Australia 2013-2014. (2016, September 22). Australian Institute of Health and Welfare CAN NO. 97. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs380/en/.

**Cancer end in sight. (2013, July 15). Medical Journal of Australia, Issue 26. https://www.doctorportal.com.au/mjainsight/2013/26/sanchia-aranda-cancer-end-sight/

***Pap tests and the Vaccine. (2016, September 22). Protecting Yourself against Cervical Cancer. Published by Pap Screen Victoria: http://www.papscreen.org.au/downloads/resources/brochures/protecting-yourself-against-cervical-cancer.pdf.

^Human papillomavirus (HPV) and cervical cancer. (2016, September 22). World Health Organisation. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs380/en/.

^^Every Woman Every Child. (2016, September 2). Every Woman Every Child Toolkit: World Cancer Day 2016. http://www.everywomaneverychild.org/images/WCD_2016_Toolkit_FINAL.pdf.

^^^PapScreen Victoria. (2016, September 22). Cervical cancer and Pap test statistics. http://www.papscreen.org.au/forthemedia/cervical-cancer-pap-tests-statistics.

More info about ACCF

Email: erin.mccabe@accf.org.au

Phone: 07 3177 1099

Post: PO Box 1008 Fortitude Valley QLD 4006

Website: www.accf.org.au

Twitter: @theACCF, #theACCF

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