When to start cervical screening

If you’re aged 25 to 74, and have a cervix, you need to have a Cervical Screening Test every five years.

Cervical screening is the best way to protect yourself against cervical cancer and look after your health for the future.

What does the Cervical Screening Test do?

The Cervical Screening Test looks for HPV. HPV stands for Human Papillomavirus. Certain types of HPV, if left untreated, can cause cell changes that may over time develop into cervical cancer. If these changes are found early through screening, they can often be treated successfully.

When you turn 25, start screening

You don’t have to be old to get cervical cancer. If you’ve ever been sexually active, getting screened once you turn 25 is essential, even if you’ve been vaccinated against HPV. You can learn more about HPV and how some strains of HPV can lead to cervical cancer here hpvvaccine.org.au.

Over half of eligible Victorians aged 25 to 34 are missing out on lifesaving cervical screening. This age group has one of the lowest screening rates in the country.

Between 2018 and 2020 only 51.0% of eligible 25 to 29 year-olds and 50.6% of eligible 30 to 34 year-olds in Victoria took part in cervical screening.

If you haven’t had a Cervical Screening Test or are overdue, then book a test with a doctor or specially trained nurse today. 

Find a Cervical Screening provider near you

“I was in shock. I thought at 29 that I was too young to get cervical cancer.”
– Casey, aged 31.

Read more real-life stories from people like you.

Read more

Casey: I was in shock. I thought at 29 I was too young to get cervical cancer.

Why did the cervical screening program change?

The National Cervical Screening Program changed on 1 December 2017 to improve the early detection of cervical cancer and save even more lives. The program now invites all eligible people aged 25 to 74 to have a Cervical Screening Test every five years, rather than a Pap test every two years.

Research has shown that having a Cervical Screening Test every five years is more effective than, and just as safe as, a Pap test every two years. The renewed program is expected to reduce cervical cancer rates and deaths by at least another 30%.

Why do I need to wait until I’m 25?

A common concern among young Victorians is the new age range for cervical screening, as previously cervical screening started at age 18.

Research shows us that having a five-yearly Cervical Screening Test from the age of 25 is safer and more effective than having a two-yearly Pap test from the age of 18.

Cervical cancer is extremely rare in women aged under 25 – there are around 10–15 cases of cervical cancer in people under 25 in Australia each year from a total number of around 900 cases.

Since HPV vaccination was introduced in 2007, the number of cervical abnormalities among people with a cervix aged younger than 25 has been dropping, resulting in fewer cases of cervical cancer in this age group.

The combined approach of the vaccine and a more effective cervical screening program is protecting our young generations from the risk of cervical cancer.

To find out more, visit What is HPV and how does it cause cervical cancer?

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