11–17 November 2019
Are you up to date with your cervical cancer screening schedule? National Cervical Cancer Awareness Week (11–17 November) is your chance to make sure.
Important changes to cervical cancer screening
On 1 December 2017, Australia switched to a renewed cervical cancer screening program. The new Cervical Screening Test is more effective than the old Pap test, because it tests for Human Papillomavirus (HPV)—the precursor to almost all cases of cervical cancer.
Australia has one of the lowest rates of cervical cancer in the world, and the new Cervical Screening Test will drive incidence and death rates down by a further 20 per cent. In fact, research conducted by Cancer Council NSW shows that if vaccination and screening coverage are maintained at the current rate, Australia is set to eliminate cervical cancer as a public health issue by 2035.
If you experience symptoms such as pain or unusual bleeding or discharge see your GP, no matter your age or when you last had a Cervical Screening Test.
When am I due for my first test?
Women are due for their first Cervical Screening Test at age 25, even if they’ve had the HPV vaccination.
If you are 25 or older:
You should book in with a GP for your first Cervical Screening Test two years after your last Pap test. After that, your regular test will be every five years if everything is ok. Learn more about why this is.
If you are younger than 25:
If you’ve never been screened for cervical cancer, you should book in with a GP for your first Cervical Screening Test as soon as you turn 25. If you’ve had regular Pap tests before now and you are aged under 25, your next Cervical Screening Test will be due at age 25. After that, your regular test will be every five years if everything is ok. Learn more about why this is.
Learn more about finding cervical cancer early.
Cervical screening for older women
Continuing with cervical screening until the age of 74 is important. HPV (which causes almost all cervical cancers) can take a long time to develop into cervical cancer, around 10-30 years. Older women also haven’t had the benefit of having access to the HPV vaccination.
This means that even if a woman has not been sexually active for a long time, or has only had one partner for a long time, they could still be at risk of cervical cancer. Cancer Council encourages all women aged 25-74 to have a regular Cervical Screening Test. If you’re aged 25 and over, your first cervical screening test will be due two years after your last Pap test.
Self-collection and the Cervical Screening Test
Over 70 per cent of Australian women who are diagnosed with cervical cancer are overdue for screening, or have never screened.
Sometimes the Cervical Screening Test is not appropriate for everyone. For these people, it is vital that we find new ways for them to participate in cervical screening.
Self-collection may be an option for women who are aged 30 years or older, and have either:
- never had a Cervical Screening Test (or Pap test) OR
- are at least two years overdue for cervical screening (it has been four or more years since they last had a test).
If you are overdue for your Cervical Screening Test or have never screened, speak with your GP about self-collection.
Self-collection and healthcare providers
Self-collection may be a suitable alternative for women who are aged 30 or over and are not already participating in regular cervical screening. If your clinic does not currently offer self-collection, visit the SA Health website Cervical Screening for healthcare providers to find out how you can offer this option to eligible patients.