Regular Cervical Screening Tests can prevent around 90% of cervical cancers.
Cervical Screening Tests
All women and people with a cervix aged 25 to 74 who've ever had a sexual partner should have a Cervical Screening Test every five years, even if they're no longer sexually active.
This is the best way to reduce your risk of cervical cancer.
The Pap test has changed
The National Cervical Screening Program changed in 2017 to improve early detection and save more lives.
All women and people with a cervix 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 new program is expected to reduce cervical cancer rates and deaths by at least another 20%.
Self-collection is when a woman or person with a cervix takes their own vaginal sample using a 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. It is easy and accurate and gives you more control over the process.
Currently, you are eligible for self-collection if you:
- are aged 30 and over
- are overdue for a Cervical Screening Test by two years or more, and
- have no symptoms (like unexplained bleeding).
Find out more about self-collection
When to screen
All women and people with a cervix aged between 25 and 74 years should have a Cervical Screening Test every five years.
If you haven’t screened since the new test was introduced in December 2017, you are now overdue. You should talk to your doctor or nurse as soon as possible about being screened. You may also be eligible for the self-collection method of screening for cervical cancer.
Women and people with a cervix 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 cervical screening. Barriers differ depending on cultural background, age, gender, sexuality and previous screening experiences. We have a selection of resources to help overcome these barriers and support people to take part in regular cervical screening.
Many women and people with a cervix who face barriers are overdue for cervical screening and may be eligible for self-collection. Self-collection is easy and accurate and gives people more control over the process.
People with disabilities
Some people with disabilities may face barriers which make cervical screening harder to do. These barriers may include:
- clinic accessibility
- physical limitations
- competing health needs
- informed consent.
A doctor, nurse 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 has disability access such a hoist, ramp, adjustable bed, etc.
Regular cervical screening is recommended for all LGBTIQ people with a cervix aged between 25 and 74. 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 and people with a cervix who have experienced sexual assault
Some women and people with a cervix 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.
More information: Cervical screening after sexual assault: your right to important health care
Women who have experienced FGC
The experience of Female Genital Cutting (FGC) can sometimes prevent people from getting a Cervical Screening Test.
Our brochure Cervical screening is important for all women provides helpful information for those impacted by FGC.
Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander communities
Women and people with a cervix 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.
More information: Screening Resources Hub: Women's Business flip chart
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, including vaginal and vulval. The vaccine also helps protect against penile cancer, anal cancer and genital warts.
The vaccine is most effective if given before the start of sexual activity. It's currently free for children in Year 7 as part of the school-based National Immunisation Program.
People 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 and people with a cervix, aged 25 to 74, who've ever been sexually active.
Visit our HPV vaccine website for more information.