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

2-minute read

Until December 2017, the Pap smear was the routine test given to women aged 18 to 69, every 2 years, to help prevent cervical cancer. The test looked for changes to cells on the cervix (the entrance to the uterus) that could lead to cancer. But now the Pap smear has been replaced by a similar procedure, called the Cervical Screening Test.

Changes to cervical screening

The National Cervical Screening Program now offers women aged 25 to 74 the Cervical Screening Test — done every 5 years instead of every 2 years. And rather than starting screening at 18, women can now start screening at 25 years old. This test looks and feels like a Pap smear, with a doctor collecting a sample of cells from the cervix using a small brush.

The Cervical Screening Test is more accurate than the Pap smear because it detects the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection that causes most cases of cervical cancer. It is not a test for cancer. You can read more about the Cervical Screening Test here.

When will I be due for my first HPV test?

All women aged 25 and over who have ever been sexually active — even just once — will be due for their first Cervical Screening Test 2 years after their last Pap smear. You will still need a Cervical Screening Test even if you have been vaccinated against HPV.

The Cervical Screening Test can be performed by your doctor. See your doctor if you have any symptoms such as unusual bleeding, discharge or pain at any time.

For more information

Read more about the changes to the National Cervical Screening Program here.

Watch this video to learn more about cervical screening.

Last reviewed: June 2018

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Pap smears

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

Read more on WA Health website

Pap smear tests - myDr.com.au

Pap smear tests are currently used in Australia as a screening test for cervical cancer. A Pap smear test can detect changes in the cells of the cervix that may develop into 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 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 | Queensland Health

Resources for clinicians and authorised Pap Smear Providers about cervical screening programs in Queensland.

Read more on Queensland Health website

RANZCOG WEBSITE - Cervical Screening in Australia

In the past, it was recommended that sexually active womenhave Pap smear tests every two years

Read more on RANZCOG - Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists website

Understanding your Pap smear/ Cervical Screening Test 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

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

Q: I have heard that the Pap smear test has changed so women only need to be tested every five years. Is that safe?

Read more on Women's Health Queensland website

Changes to the National Cervical Screening Program

National Cervical Screening Program and National Cancer Screening Register.The Australian Government has accepted the evidence-based Medical Services Adviso

Read more on Australian Cervical Cancer Foundation website

Pap test results - Cancer Institute NSW

If you had cervical screening before the 1 December 2017, you will receive a different result. Find out more about what your Pap Test results mean.

Read more on NSW Health website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice 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 and advice

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