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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 But now the Pap smear has been replaced by a similar procedure, called the Cervical Screening Test.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 nearly all 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 test. 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.

Video provided by Pathology Tests Explained

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Last reviewed: July 2020

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