Key messages

  • Cervical cancer is largely preventable through regular screening.
  • On 1 December 2017, the cervical screening test replaced the Pap test.
  • The cervical screening test is highly effective as it detects the human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • The cervical screening test protects up to 30 per cent more women than the Pap test.
  • 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.

The National Cervical Screening Program

On 1 December 2017, the cervical screening test replaced the Pap test. Women aged 25 to 74 years are eligible to participate in the National Cervical Screening Program (NCSP). 

The cervical screening test will protect up to 30 per cent more women from cervical cancer.

The cervical screening test is highly 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.

Once a cervical screening test has been completed, 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