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Cervical cancer screening policy

Early detection policy

Screening for early signs of cervical cancer is one of the public health success stories of the 20th century, as shown by the substantially lower rates of cervical cancer in countries with an organised screening program. 

The Pap smear test has been replaced with the Cervical Screening Test. 

Almost all cases of cervical cancer are linked to the human papillomavirus (HPV). In  December 2017 the Pap smear test was replaced with the renewed National Cervical Cancer Screening Program. These changes recognise the introduction of a vaccine against specific strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV) as well as developments in new screening tests. The test procedure is similar to the Pap smear test but will test for HPV infection.

Women aged between 25 and 74 years of age should have a cervical screening test two years after their last Pap smear test. After that, you will only need to have the test every five years if your results are normal.

The age for screening has changed from 18 to 25 for your first test as most women under the age of 25 will have been vaccinated for HPV. Cervical cancer is also rare in women under the age of 25. You will need to have regular cervical screening tests even if you have received the HPV vaccination as it does not protect against all types of HPV that may cause cervical cancer.

For further information visit our cervical screening website

Policy advice on cervical cancer screening is available in the cervical cancer chapter of our National Cancer Prevention Policy.

Types of HPV that cause cervical cancer can be prevented through immunisation. For more information see the immunisation section or visit our HPV vaccine website.

Find out more about cervical cancer screening