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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

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