Women's Health

Womens Health

Pap Test replaced by Cervical Screening Test

Information about how the new Cervical Screening Test is done and who should have the test.

What is the Cervical Screening Test?

The Cervical Screening Test is a simple procedure to check the health of your cervix. If you have ever had a Pap test before, the way the test is done will feel the same.

The Cervical Screening Test replaces the two-yearly Pap test for people. If you're aged 25 to 74 you should have your first Cervical Screening Test two years after your last Pap test.

The Cervical Screening Test is more accurate at detecting human papillomavirus (known as HPV). The Pap test used to look for cell changes in the cervix, whereas the new Cervical Screening Test looks for HPV which can lead to cell changes in the cervix (see diagram of the cervix below).

HPV is a common virus that can cause changes to cells in your cervix, which in rare cases can develop into cervical cancer.

Once you have had your first Cervical Screening Test, you will only need to have one every five years instead of every two, if your results are normal.
 

Why has screening changed from 2 to 5 years?

The Cervical Screening Test is more accurate at detecting HPV. The Pap test used to look for cell changes in the cervix, whereas the new Cervical Screening Test looks for the HPV which can lead to cell changes in the cervix. 

Because of this, it is safe for you if your test does not indicate (show) you have a HPV infection to wait five years between tests. Even if your test shows you have HPV it usually takes 10 or more years for HPV to develop into cervical cancer and cervical cancer is a rare outcome of a HPV infection. 

How is the new test more accurate?

Although the Cervical Screening Test will feel the same for you, it is more accurate at detecting human papillomavirus (known as HPV).  

HPV is a common virus that can cause changes to cells in your cervix, which in rare cases can develop into cervical cancer. By detecting a HPV infection early, it allows your healthcare provider to monitor the infection and intervene if there are any changes to cells in your cervix. 

How is the Cervical Screening Test done?

The test is a simple procedure to check the health of your cervix. Your cervix is the opening of the uterus (neck of the womb), and is at the top of your vagina.

If you have ever had a Pap test before, the way your healthcare provider does the Cervical Screening Test will look and feel the same.

The procedure might be a bit uncomfortable, but it shouldn’t hurt. If you experience pain, tell your healthcare provider straight away. 

Remember, you can always ask for a female clinician.

Who should have the test?

If you are 25 to 74 years old, have a cervix and have ever been sexually active, you should have your first Cervical Screening Test two years after your last Pap test. This includes people vaccinated and unvaccinated for HPV as well as people who identify as lesbian or transgender.

If you are turning 25 years old, or have never had a Pap test before, you should make an appointment with your healthcare provider to have a Cervical Screening Test.

If you have symptoms at any age, such as abnormal vaginal bleeding, pain or discharge, you should discuss these with your healthcare provider immediately.

Why has the age changed from 18 to 25 years for the first test screening test?

Research shows that beginning cervical screening at age 25 years is safe.

The rationale for increasing the screening age from 18 to 25 is:
 

  • Most women and men under 25 years have been vaccinated for HPV and people under 25 have robust immune systems and will clear the infection quickly without treatment.

  • Cervical cancer in women under 25 is rare and even after 20 years of screening women under 25 the incidence of cervical cancer in this age group has not reduced the incidence of cervical cancer.

If you are experiencing symptoms such as unusual bleeding, discharge and pain, please make an appointment with your healthcare provider immediately.