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Pap smears - common questions

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

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Last reviewed: October 2017

Recommended links

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RANZCOG WEBSITE - Cervical Screening in Australia

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

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"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.

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Information on routine antenatal screening tests during pregnancy including weight and height, blood tests, infections, pap test, plus links to trusted resources.

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Read cervical cancer impact, prevention, screening and related public policy to reduce bowel cancer burden

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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

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