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The Renewal of the National Cervical Screening Program has been implemented.
The two yearly Pap test for people aged 18 to 69 has been replaced by a five yearly human papillomavirus (HPV) test for people aged 25 to 74. People are due for their first Cervical Screening Test at the age of 25 or two years after their last Pap test. The changes include:
• a more accurate Cervical Screening Test has replaced the Pap test
• the time between tests has changed from two to five years
• the age at which screening starts has increased from 18 years to 25 years, or two years after the last Pap test if the Pap test was done at the age of 23 or over
• people aged 70 to 74 years will be invited to have a Cervical Screening Test.

What is the cervical screening test ?

• The Cervical Screening Test is expected to protect up to 30% more people from cervical cancer. The test is more effective because it detects the human papillomavirus (HPV). Human papillomavirus, also known as HPV, is a common virus that can cause cervical cell abnormalities that in rare cases may develop into cervical cancer.
• The Cervical Screening Test is a simple procedure to check the health of your cervix. The way the test is done won’t change it will feel the same as the Pap test.
• Once you have had your first Cervical Screening Test, you’ll only need to have one every five years, instead of every two (if your results are normal and you do not have HPV). This is because it usually takes 10 to 15 years for a persistent HPV infection to develop into cervical cancer.

How is the new screening test more accurate?

• The Cervical Screening Test is more accurate at detecting changes in the cervix than the Pap test. The new test detects the human papillomavirus (HPV). If HPV is found another test is automatically done to look for cell changes in the cervix. It usually takes 10 to 15 years to develop cervical cancer from a persistent HPV infection.
• Because of the improved accuracy of the test and the length of time it takes for cancer to develop, it is safe to wait for five years between tests for women who do not have 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 changes to the cells in the cervix than the Pap test alone.
• HPV is a common virus that can cause changes to cells in your cervix, which in rare cases (if left untreated) 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.

Why has the cervical screening test changed from 18 years to 25 years?

Cervical cancer in people under the age of 25 is rare. Since screening began in 1991, the National Cervical Screening Program based on the Pap test has not reduced the number of women who develop cervical cancer in this age group.
Commencing screening at age 25 will reduce the investigation and treatment of common cervical abnormalities that would usually resolve by themselves in woman under the age of 25. This is because it can take 10 to 15 years for a persistent HPV infection to develop into cervical cancer.

Do I still need a cervical screening test if I am no longer sexually active?

Yes, if you are not currently sexually active it is still important to have regular Cervical Screening Tests. You should have the test every five years, from 25 to 74 years of age.

If I have had a Pap smear in the last twelve months do I have to wait another four years?

No, you should have your first Cervical Screening Test two years after your last Pap test. If your Cervical Screening Test is normal you will only need to have the test every five years. Talk to your healthcare provider about when your next test is due.

What does the cervical screening test look for?

The Cervical Screening Test looks for HPV. If HPV is found another test is automatically done to look for cell changes in the cervix. The Cervical Screening Test does not look for any other conditions, for example other sexually transmitted infections or ovarian cancer.

If I had a Pap smear in the last twelve months do I wait four years for my next cervical screening test?

No, you should have your first Cervical Screening Test two years after your last Pap test. If your Cervical Screening Test is normal you will only need to have the test every five years. Talk to your healthcare provider about when your next test is due.