Regular Cervical Screening Tests can prevent around 90% of cervical cancers.
Cervical Screening Tests
All women aged 25 to 74 who've ever been sexually active should have a Cervical Screening Test every five years, even if they're no longer having sex.
This is the best way to reduce your risk of cervical cancer.
The Pap test has changed
The National Cervical Screening Program changed on 1 December 2017 to improve early detection and save more lives.
All women aged between 25 and 74 years are now invited to have a Cervical Screening Test every five years, instead of a Pap test every two years.
The Cervical Screening Test detects HPV infection. HPV is a key risk factor in the development of cervical cancer. Even if you are vaccinated against HPV you need to participate in regular cervical screening.
The new test is more effective than, and just as safe as, screening with a Pap test every two years. In fact, the renewed program is expected to reduce cervical cancer rates and deaths by at least another 20%.
A self-collected Cervical Screening Test is when a woman takes her own sample using a cotton swab. This test is done privately at the doctor’s or other health setting and is usually done behind a screen or in the bathroom.
You may be eligible for self-collection if you:
- are aged 30 and over, and
- are overdue for a Cervical Screening Test by two years, and
- have said no to a Cervical Screening Test from a health professional.
Not all women are eligible for a self-collected Cervical Screening Test so it is important that you speak to your doctor first.
When to screen
Women aged 25–74 will be due for their first Cervical Screening Test two years after their last Pap test.
If it’s been more than two years since your last Pap test, you should talk to your doctor or nurse as soon as possible about being screened.
After their first Cervical Screening Test, women will only need to be tested every five years.
Women of any age who have symptoms such as unusual bleeding, discharge or pain should see their health care professional immediately, regardless of when they were last screened.
Barriers to cervical screening
People face different barriers to the Cervical Screening Test – unique reasons why people would be hesitant to take part in screening. Barriers differ depending on cultural background, age, gender, sexuality, previous screening experiences, and disabilities. We have a selection of resources to help overcome these barriers and motivate people to take part in regular cervical screening.
People with disabilities
Some people with disabilities may face barriers which make having a Cervical Screening Test harder to do. These barriers may include:
- clinic accessibility
- physical limitations
- competing health needs
- informed consent.
A doctor or health professional can provide individual advice to help overcome some of these barriers.
Our Cervical Screening Directory allows you to search for a cervical screening provider who provides disability access such a hoist, ramp, adjustable bed, etc.
LGBTIQ people aged between 25 and 74 with a cervix need regular cervical screening, because no matter who you have had as a sexual partner or what your gender identity is, you're still at risk of cervical cancer.
Women who have experienced sexual assault
Some women who have a history of sexual assault may be reminded of the experience by gynaecological procedures such as the Cervical Screening Test and may avoid regular cervical screening.
Our Cervical Screening Directory allows you to search for a sexual assault sensitive provider.
Women who have experienced FGC
The experience of Female Genital Cutting (FGC) can sometimes prevent a woman from getting a Cervical Screening Test.
Our brochure Cervical screening is important for all women provides helpful information for these women.
Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander women
Women from the Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander community may face additional barriers to cervical screening, such as:
- distrust of healthcare providers
- lack of culturally safe and sensitive healthcare services.
Speak to your Aboriginal health worker for more information on culturally safe services.
Where to go for a Cervical Screening Test
There are many Cervical Screening Test providers in Victoria. Check our Cervical Screening directory to find a provider near you.
The HPV vaccine will prevent up to 90% of cervical cancers as well as some other less common genital cancers in women, including vaginal and vulval. The vaccine also helps protect against penile cancer in men, and anal cancer and genital warts in both men and women.
The vaccine is most effective if given before the start of sexual activity. It's currently free for girls and boys in Year 7 as part of the school-based National Immunisation Program.
Males and females outside of these ages may still benefit from the vaccine and should speak to their doctors to see if it's right for them. As the vaccine won't prevent all cervical cancers, it's important to remember that, vaccinated or not, a Cervical Screening Test every five years is still vitally important for all women, aged 25 to 74, who've ever been sexually active.
Visit our HPV vaccine website for more information.