Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Pap smears

Cervical screening is referred to as a Pap smear. Pap smears are done every two years in Australia.

The purpose of a Pap smear is to identify any abnormal cells (pre-cancerous) in your cervix that may go on to develop into cancer. It is not a test for cancer.

What can cause an abnormal Pap smear?

Cells can change and become abnormal if a woman is exposed to the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). This is a very common virus that is spread through direct skin to skin contact (which often occurs during sex). The majority of people carry the virus only.

There are many different strains of HPV (over 100), but only a few of these may go on to cause cancer. The other types usually go undetected or occasionally cause genital warts in some people.

What do I do if I have an abnormal result?

If the results of your cervical screening come back as abnormal, you will probably be asked to see your doctor to discuss your results. Most of the time, the abnormal cells will disappear on their own without treatment.

If you do have treatment to remove the abnormal cells, you will usually be asked to attend for follow up for a repeat Pap smear. This is to monitor the activity of the cervical cells to make sure no more abnormal ones develop.

Pap smears can be performed at your local health centre, usually by a practice nurse or doctor.

Watch this video to learn more about cervical screening.

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.

More information
Read more about changes to National Cervical Screening Program


Last reviewed: July 2015

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Found 666 results

Pap smears

Pap smears are the best way to protect yourself against cervical cancer.

Read more on WA Health website

Pap smear tests -

The Pap smear test is used to help detect early changes in the cells of the cervix which may lead to cervical cancer.

Read more on myDr website

Understanding your Pap smear results

Your Pap smear results will be sent to the practice or clinic where you had the Pap smear.

Read more on WA Health website

PAP Smear | myVMC

A PAP smear is a test for all sexually active women that allows the examination of cells from the cervix to detect abnormal changes that may indicate or be a precursor to cervical cancer.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Pap smears what you need to know

Pap smears are the best way to protect yourself against cervical cancer

Read more on WA Health website

Cervical screening (Pap smear) and prevention | Health and wellbeing | Queensland Government

Regular cervical screening via a Pap smear is the best way to prevent cervical cancer as it can detect changes to the cells of the cervix that can be treated before cancer develops. In Queensland, the Queensland Health Pap Smear Register will send you a reminder notice when you are overdue for a Pap smear as well as providing access to your Pap smear result history for your doctor or pathology laboratory.

Read more on Queensland Health website

Pap & Smear Testing - Information & Support - CanTeen

A pap test or pap smear is used to detect changes in the cervix. Learn more about diagnosis and treatments with CanTeen.

Read more on CanTeen website

Pap smear screening program: Ask a Health Question | Women's Health Queensland Wide

Q I have heard that in the near future women are only going to need to have Pap smears every five years. I am 33 and my Pap smear is overdue by about 12 months. Should I just leave it now and have it when the new program starts? Health_Journey_Issue_1_2015.pdf

Read more on Women's Health Queensland Wide website

Treatment options for abnormal Pap smears :: SA Health

The treatment options available including the risks, about the procedure and the risks.

Read more on SA Health website

Understanding your Pap smear results - Cancer Council Australia

A Pap smear every two years offers the best chance of preventing cervical cancer. Read our fact sheet on symptoms, screening and risk.

Read more on Cancer Council Australia website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo