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Pap smears - common questions

2-minute read

Here are answers to some of the commonly asked questions about Pap tests (also referred to as cervical screening).

When should I be screened?

The National Cervical Screening programme in Australia recommends:

  • Routine screening with Pap tests should be carried out every two years for women aged 18 to 69 who have ever been sexually activeFrom December 1 2017, cervical screening in Australia will change. Women aged 25 to 74 will be invited to have a more accurate human papillomavirus (HPV) test every 5 years. The first one should be done two years after their last Pap test.
  • You will still need cervical screening even if you have had the HPV vaccination.

If at any age you have symptoms such as unusual bleeding, discharge or pain, you should see your doctor straight away.

Do I need a screening if I’m not sexually active?

Any woman who has ever had sex should have a Pap test.

Where can I go for screening?

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

Do I need a pelvic examination?

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners recommend that pelvic examinations are not routinely required with a Pap smear. For more information, visit the Choosing Wisely Australia website.

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 two years after their last Pap test.

More information
Read more about changes to National Cervical Screening Program


Last reviewed: October 2017

Recommended links

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Cervical Screening Registry

Cervical cytology registers operate in all states and territories in Australia to deliver an organised approach to cervical screening.

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RANZCOG WEBSITE - Cervical Screening in Australia

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Cervical Screening Test results - what do they mean? :: SA Health

Not sure what a high risk Cervical Screening Test result means? Here we explain the types of results and what it means for you

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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

Women's health - NT.GOV.AU

General information about women's health, bacterial vaginosis, thrush, pelvic inflammatory disease and cervical screening.

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Cervical cancer screening program - Cancer Council Australia

Women aged 18 to 70 are advised to get a Pap test every two years. Find out about HPV vaccination and cervical cancer screening

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Pap smears what you need to know

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

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Pap smears

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

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Understanding your Pap smear results

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

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Get the Pap Text

"Get the Pap Text" is an initiative to remind people when they need to get a pap test with a periodical text. Getting a Pap Text is simple! Just complete the form below. Give us your email address to also receive an email confirmation and reminder.

Read more on Australian Cervical Cancer Foundation website

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