Changes to Cervical Screening

Patient Information

On December 1, 2017, cervical cancer screening in Australia changed from two-yearly Pap testing to five-yearly HPV testing.

Why is cervical screening changing?

We now know that 99% of cervical cancer is caused by persistent infection with certain types of HPV (human papillomavirus). HPV is a common infection in females and males, with hundreds of HPV types that affect different parts of the body.

Most HPV infections clear naturally by the body, without causing any problems. However, some types of HPV can lead to the development of different cancers.

By switching to a test that looks for these specific HPV types, we can detect these HPV infections, often before any cellular changes have even taken place.

How does the cervical screening test work?

Screening age

All women between 25 and 74 years of age are eligible for regular HPV testing as part of the new Cervical Screening Program.

Sample collection

Sample collection for HPV testing is the same as having a Pap test - a doctor or healthcare professional collects a sample of cells from your cervix, and this sample is then sent to our pathology laboratory for testing.

Sample testing

The laboratory performs an HPV test, and if HPV is found to be present, a cytology slide will also be made. This slide is examined under a microscope to see if there are any abnormal cells.

A cytology slide is also made for women who have had a previous abnormal Pap test, or who have symptoms such as abnormal bleeding.

Test results and repeat testing

Once all the testing is complete, the laboratory sends the result to your doctor with a risk category that indicates when you should have your next test. For more a more comprehensive explanation of the risk categories, please see the table below.



Remember - women of any age who experience symptoms, including pain, bleeding or discharge, should see their doctor or healthcare professional.

Available resources

Information for Patients

For further information on the program, or any questions you might have, please speak to your doctor.