Cancer Council Australia

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Cervical cancer screening

Cervical cancer incidence and mortality rates have halved in Australia since the introduction in 1991 of the National Cervical Screening Program. Cancer Council Australia advises eligible women to participate in the program.

The Australian Government has renewed the National Cervical Screening Program for women. Previously, the  program offered a free Pap smear test every two years to women between the ages of 18 and 70. 

Following an independent review of the program, a number of changes will come into effect from 1 December 2017. The changes recognise the introduction in 2006 of a vaccine against specific strains of the human papilloma virus, which causes almost all cases of cervical cancer. The new screening program is designed to work together with the HPV vaccination program, to help reduce the incidence of cervical cancer. 

The changes include:

  • the test - the new Cervical Screening Test will now look for HPV (which causes almost all cervical cancers), not just abnormal cells (like the Pap smear test did)
  • if you have previously had a pap smear test - you should have your first HPV screening test two years after your last pap test
  • how often it's needed - a better test means you will only need to screen every five years after your first HPV test
  • the starting age - the first test will be done at 25, rather than 18.

Information on the renewed program is available on the Australian Government Department of Health's screening website.

Cancer Council Australia supports the changes to the program; the Chair of Cancer Council Australia's Screening and Immunisation Committee, A/Professor Karen Canfell, led the independent evidence review. The review (submitted to the independent Medical Services Advisory Committee) concluded that thew new Cervical Screening Test every five years is more effective, just as safe and was estimated to result in over 20% reduction in incidence and mortality from cervical cancer in Australian women compared with the program it will replace.

For more information on cervical cancer screening and HPV vaccination, call the Cancer Council 13 11 20 or visit our cervical screening website.

For more information on how Australia is leading the world when it comes to eliminating cervical cancer as a public health issue with our world-leading screening and immunisation program, watch the video below.

This page was last updated on: Friday, March 15, 2019

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