Cervical screening

Cervical screening reduces the number of women who develop and die from cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers.

Cervical screening is a test to see if your cervix is healthy or if there are any cell changes. It detects early pre-cancerous changes in the cervix before cervical cancer develops. Cervical screening can also detect if cervical cancer is present.

Cervical screening does not check for other problems in the reproductive system such as ovarian cancer or sexually transmitted infections.

For more information go to the Australian Government Department of Health National Cervical Screening Program website.

Upcoming changes to the cervical screening program

The new cervical screening program will start on 1 December 2017 when a primary human papillomavirus (HPV) test will replace the current Pap smear for cervical screening. 

From 1 December 2017 the HPV screening test will become available on the Medicare Benefits Schedule.

For more information go to the Australian Government Department of Health National Cervical Screening Program website.

Until the changes take place do not delay your two yearly Pap smear. 

Who needs cervical screening

All women between 18 and 70 who have ever been sexually active should have a Pap smear every two years. After 1 December 2017 this will change to an HPV test every five years.

This includes women who were sexually active in the past but aren't now and lesbians.

If you have had a hysterectomy you may still need cervical screening and should ask your health practitioner for advice.

You should still have a cervical screen even if you have received the HPV vaccine.

Screening is for people without cervical cancer symptoms. If you are concerned about any symptoms contact your health care provider.

Women most at risk

Most cases of cervical cancer happen in women older than 40.

The test

Cells from your cervix are collected and sent to a laboratory where they are tested for cellular abnormalities.

Results

Most results are normal.

An abnormal cervical screening result means that some of your cervix cells are different in some way from the normal cells.

Most abnormal cells are because of infections or conditions, which clear up naturally or can be easily treated.

Where you can get cervical screening

You can get a cervical screen in all of the following places:

  • any general practitioner (GP)
  • community or women's health centre
  • family planning clinic
  • sexual health clinic
  • Aboriginal Medical Service.

Pap smear register

The results of your Pap smear, as well as details about your follow-up care and treatment, are recorded in a register. This register:

  • allows reminder letters to be sent out so you know when your next Pap smear, treatment or follow-up care are due
  • acts as a backup reminder for health practitioners
  • keeps a record of your cervical history - especially helpful when changing doctors or moving interstate.

If you don't want to be on the register

If you don't want your details to be kept on the register, tell the person taking your Pap smear. If you are getting further treatment, tell the doctor treating you.

You will need to do this every time a test is done.

You can contact the register to have your information removed.

For more information talk to you doctor, nurse or health worker. You can contact the register on 13 15 56.

Last updated: 29 August 2017