Cervical Screening Tests
Regular cervical screening is your best protection against cervical cancer.
On 1 December 2017 the Cervical Screening Test replaced the 2 yearly Pap smear. This test is a simple procedure to check the health of your cervix.
- If you are aged between 25-74 and have a normal cervical screening history, you should have your first Cervical Screening Test 2 years after your last Pap smear.
- If you are under 25 years of age with a normal screening history, it is safe to wait until the age of 25 years to have your first Cervical Screening Test.
- If you have never had a Pap smear or Cervical Screening Test talk to your health care provider about having a Cervical Screening Test.
- If you have had cervical screening abnormalities in the past, follow your health care provider’s advice.
What is a Cervical Screening Test?
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 smear before, the way the Cervical Screening Test is done will look and feel the same. The procedure might be a bit uncomfortable, but it shouldn't hurt. If you experience pain, tell your health care provider straight away.
Remember, you can always ask for a female clinician.
How is the cervical screening test more accurate?
While the Pap smear test used to look for cell changes in the cervix, the new Cervical Screening Test detects human papillomavirus (HPV) which can lead to cell changes in the cervix.
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, your health care provider can monitor the infection and recommend the appropriate action if there are any changes to the cells in your cervix.
Once you have had your first Cervical Screening Test, you will only need to have a test every 5 years instead of every 2 years if your results are normal.
When to have a Cervical Screening Test
The screening age has changed from 18 to 25 as research has shown that beginning cervical screening at age 25 years is safe. If you are turning 25 years old, or have never had a Pap smear before, you should make an appointment with your health care provider to have a Cervical Screening Test. If you are under 25 years of age with a normal screening history, it is safe to wait until the age of 25 years to have your first Cervical Screening 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 2 years after your last Pap smear. This includes people vaccinated and unvaccinated for HPV as well as people who identify as lesbian or transgender.
If you have had a hysterectomy, you may still need to have regular cervical screening tests; follow your health care provider’s advice.
If you have symptoms of cervical cancer at any age, such as abnormal vaginal bleeding, pain during sex or unusual discharge, you should discuss these with your health care provider immediately.
Find a cervical screening test provider
Cervical Screening Tests and associated follow-up tests are provided in a number of settings:
- Mobile Women’s Health Service in rural and remote areas
- sexual health services
- gynaecology outpatient clinics
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health services
- general practice
- True relationships and reproductive health (formerly Family Planning Queensland) clinics.
Generally your doctor will perform your Cervical Screening Test. Make an appointment directly with your doctor or practice nurse, and make sure you mention it is for a Cervical Screening Test so they can book the appropriate amount of time.
You can call Women’s Health Queensland Wide on (07) 3216 0376 (local call within Brisbane metro) or 1800 017 676 (outside Brisbane) to find a local Cervical Screening Test provider or to answer any questions you may have.
True (previously Family Planning Queensland) have clinics that provide cervical screening test services—find your nearest clinic or call (07) 3250 0240.
Women in rural and remote areas of Queensland can make an appointment with a Mobile Women’s Health Service. In some areas an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women’s health worker works with the nurse.