Key messages

  • Cervical cancer is largely preventable through regular screening.
  • From 1 December 2017, the Pap test will be replaced by a new cervical screening test.
  • The new test is more effective because it detects the human papillomavirus (HPV).
  • The new cervical screening test is expected to protect up to 30 per cent more women from cervical cancer.
  • Women who have received the HPV vaccine still need to be regularly screened as the vaccine does not protect against all types of HPV infection known to cause cervical cancer.

Changes to the National Cervical Screening Program

The Commonwealth Government has accepted the recommendations of the Medical Services Advisory Committee (MSAC) that a primary human papillomavirus (HPV) test should replace the current pap test for cervical screening.

Beginning on 1 December 2017 the Pap test will be replaced by a new cervical screening test. Women aged 25 to 74 years are eligible to participate in the National Cervical Screening Program (NCSP). 

The new cervical screening test is expected to protect up to 30 per cent more women from cervical cancer.

The new test is more effective because it detects HPV, a common virus that can cause cervical cell abnormalities that in rare cases may develop into cervical cancer.

Women 25 or older should have their first cervical screening test two years after their last Pap test, if their Pap test result was normal.

After their first cervical screening test, women will only need to be tested every five years (instead of every two) if their results are normal and they do not have HPV.

Five yearly screening is safe. This is because it usually takes 10 to 15 years for a persistent HPV infection to develop into cervical cancer. 

HPV is so common that many people have it at some point in their lives and never know it, as there are usually no symptoms. Most HPV infections are cleared naturally by the body’s immune system within one to two years without causing problems.

Women who have received the HPV vaccine still need to be regularly screened as the vaccine does not protect against all types of HPV infection known to cause cervical cancer.

Women of any age who have symptoms such as unusual bleeding, discharge or pain should see their healthcare provider immediately.

More information

National Cervical Screening Program

Tel. 1800 627 701