About the test

Information about how the Cervical Screening Test is done and who should have the test.

Page last updated: 26 September 2018 (this page is generated automatically and reflects updates to other content within the website)

What is the Cervical Screening Test?
Why has screening changed from two to five years?
How is the Cervical Screening Test more accurate?
How is the Cervical Screening Test done?
Who should have the test?
Why has the age changed from 18 to 25 years for the first screening test?
Does the Cervical Screening Test screen for other cancers?

What is the Cervical Screening Test?

The Cervical Screening Test is a simple procedure to check the health of your cervix. If you have ever had a Pap test, the way the test is done will feel the same.

The five-yearly Cervical Screening Test replaced the two-yearly Pap test. If you're aged 25 to 74 you should have your first Cervical Screening Test two years after your last Pap test.

The Cervical Screening Test is more effective than the Pap test at preventing cervical cancers, because it detects human papillomavirus (known as HPV). The Pap test used to look for cell changes in the cervix, whereas the new Cervical Screening Test looks for HPV which can lead to cell changes in the cervix (see diagram of the cervix below).

HPV is a common virus that can cause changes to cells in your cervix, which in rare cases can develop into cervical cancer.

Once you have had your first Cervical Screening Test, you will only need to have one every five years instead of every two, if your results are normal.



Why has screening changed from two to five years?

The Cervical Screening Test is more effective than the Pap test. The Pap test used to look for cell changes in the cervix, whereas the new Cervical Screening Test looks for the HPV which can lead to cell changes in the cervix.

Because of this, it is safe for you if your test does not indicate (show) you have a HPV infection to wait five years between tests. Even if your test shows you have HPV it usually takes 10 or more years for HPV to develop into cervical cancer and cervical cancer is a rare outcome of a HPV infection.

How is the Cervical Screening Test more accurate?

The Cervical Screening Test is more accurate than the Pap test as it detects human papillomavirus (known as HPV).

HPV is a common virus that can cause changes to cells in your cervix, which in rare cases can develop into cervical cancer. By detecting a HPV infection early, it allows your healthcare provider to monitor the infection and intervene if there are any changes to cells in your cervix.

How is the Cervical Screening Test done?

The test is a simple procedure to check the health of your cervix. Your cervix is the opening of the uterus (neck of the womb), and is at the top of your vagina (see diagram of the cervix above for reference).

If you have ever had a Pap test before, the way your healthcare provider does the Cervical Screening Test will look and feel the same.

The procedure might be a bit uncomfortable, but it shouldn’t hurt. If you experience pain, tell your healthcare provider straight away.

Remember, you can always ask for a female healthcare provider.

Who should have the test?

If you are 25 to 74 years old, have a cervix and have ever been sexually active, you should have a Cervical Screening Test. This includes people who identify as lesbian or transgender as well as those who have had the HPV vaccination. For most women your first Cervical Screening Test will be two years after your last Pap test.

If you are turning 25, or are over 25 and have never had a Pap test, you should make an appointment with your healthcare provider to have a Cervical Screening Test.

Women under 25 years of age who have previously had a Pap test and are not currently under clinical management for a cervical abnormality do not need to have their first Cervical Screening Test until they turn 25 years of age. However, if you have symptoms at any age, such as unusual vaginal bleeding discharge or pain during sex, you should see your healthcare provider as soon as possible.

Why has the age changed from 18 to 25 years for the first screening test?

Research shows that beginning cervical screening at 25 years of age is safe.

  • Cervical cancer in women under 25 is rare and starting screening at age 25 will reduce the investigation and treatment of common cervical abnormalities that would usually resolve by themselves in women under the age of 25.
  • After 20 years of screening women under 25 the incidence of cervical cancer or death has not reduced in this age group.
  • Most people between 12 and 25 years have been vaccinated for HPV.
  • People under 25 have robust immune systems and will clear the infection quickly without treatment.
Anyone under 25 who has previously screened and had normal test results will receive a transition letter from the National Cervical Screening Program advising them when they will be due for cervical screening.

People less than 25 who have previously screened and received an abnormal test result should continue to follow their healthcare provider’s advice.

It is important to remember that if you are experiencing symptoms such as unusual vaginal bleeding discharge or pain during sex, to see your healthcare provider as soon as possible.

Does the Cervical Screening Test screen for other cancers?

The Cervical Screening Test is your best protection from cervical cancer.

The Cervical Screening Test doesn’t screen for cancers such as ovarian or endometrial. There are no routine screening tests for these cancers.

If at any age you experience symptoms that may be suggestive of ovarian or endometrial cancers such as unusual or persistent abdominal bloating or pain, urinary changes, or pain during sex, see your healthcare provider as soon as possible.

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