Changes to cervical screening
From 1 December 2017 the National Cervical Screening Program will change to improve early detection. The current 2 yearly Pap test will change to a 5 yearly HPV test.
What should I do before 1 December 2017?
If you are a woman aged 18 to 69, you should continue to have your regular Pap test every 2 years.
When will I be due for my first HPV test?
Women will be due for the first HPV test 2 years after their last Pap test.
Read more about changes to National Cervical Screening Program
There's a strong link between certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV) and abnormalities that may develop into cervical cancer. HPV is spread through unprotected sex, so practicing safe sex and using a condom is the best way to avoid it.
Before beginning a sexual relationship with a new partner, it's a good idea for you both to be tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) at a sexual health clinic or you can go to your doctor.
Regular cervical screening, known as Pap tests, are the best way to identify abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix at an early stage.
All women over 18 who have ever had sex are advised to have a Pap test every 2 years, even if they no longer have sex. It's a good idea for your clinic or doctor's surgery to have your up-to-date contact details so that you continue getting screening invitations.
It's important that you attend your smear tests even if you have been vaccinated for HPV (see below) because the vaccine does not guarantee protection against cervical cancer.
If you have been treated for abnormal cervical cell changes, you will be invited for screening more frequently for several years after treatment. How regularly you need to go will depend on how severe the cell change is.
Watch this video to learn more about cervical screening.
There is now a vaccine which provides protection against the two strains of HPV that are thought to be responsible for most cases of cervical cancer.
Girls should be offered the HPV vaccine as part of their routine childhood immunisation program. The vaccine should be given to girls who are 12 to 13 years old, with three doses provided over a six-month period.
Source: Department of Health and Ageing (National Cervical Screening Program)
Last reviewed: October 2015