When to start cervical screening

If you’re aged 25 years or over, a Cervical Screening Test every five years could save your life.

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

All women and people with a cervix aged 25-74, who have been sexually active with a person of any gender, need to screen every five years to protect against cervical cancer.

What does the Cervical Screening Test do?

The Cervical Screening Test looks for HPV (human papillomavirus), which causes most cervical cancers. HPV is a common sexually transmitted infection spread by genital skin to skin contact between people of any gender.

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 should you start screening?

If you’re a woman or a person with a cervix and have ever been sexually active with a person of any gender, getting screened once you turn 25 is essential.

You still need to screen even if you:

  • have had the HPV vaccination
  • have had a baby or are pregnant (ensure to let your health care professional know)
  • are gay, lesbian, bisexual or queer
  • are transgender, gender diverse or non-binary and have a cervix
  • aren’t currently sexually active
  • have only been with one sexual partner
  • have only had non-penetrative sex (i.e. oral or anal sex).


You can choose which provider you go to for your test.

Find a Cervical Screening provider who suits your needs

“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.

You can now self-collect your Cervical Screening Test

Cervical screening just got easier.

You can now choose to self-collect your next Cervical Screening Test using a small swab.

A self-collected test is done in private at the doctor’s or another health setting, usually behind a curtain or in the bathroom.

The test is quick, private, easy to do and just as accurate as a test done by a doctor or nurse using a speculum.

Your doctor or nurse will explain the test to you and can do the test for you using the self-collection swab, if you prefer.

You can still choose to have a doctor or nurse do the test for you using a speculum and a small brush. Both tests are equally as safe and effective at detecting HPV.

Find out more about self-collection

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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