Cervical screening has changed in Australia. On 1 December 2017, the Pap test was replaced with a new Cervical Screening Test every five years. The latest scientific and medical evidence shows that having Cervical Screening Test every five years is just as safe, and is more effective than having a Pap test every two years.

The test is a quick and simple procedure to check the health of the cervix (neck of the womb). If you have ever had a Pap test before, the way the new test is done will look and feel the same, however the way the sample is processed and tested in the lab is different.

The Cervical Screening Test aims to detect the human papilloma virus (HPV).  HPV can cause abnormalities in the cells of the cervix. In some cases those abnormalities may progress to pre-cancer and then to cancer.  It can take up to 10 years or more for abnormalities caused by this virus to develop into cervical cancer. The new Cervical Screening Test is more effective at detecting HPV and cervical abnormalities than the previous Pap test, and allows detection of abnormalities at an earlier stage. Because the new test is superior to the Pap test, women can now have the test every five years instead of a Pap test every two years. It is expected that the change from the Pap test to the Cervical Screening Test will protect up to 30% more women from cervical cancer.

If you are a woman between 25 – 74 years of age and have ever been sexually active you should have a Cervical Screening Test every five years until age 74. Your first Cervical Screening Test is due at 25 years of age or two years after your last Pap test. If your result is normal your next test will be in five years’ time.

Further information on the Cervical Screening Test is available from the Australian Government’s Department of Health.