Cervical cancer screening
Screening saves lives
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 test every two years to women between the ages of 18 and 70.
Following an independent review of the program, a number of changes came into effect from December 2017. The changes recognised the introduction in 2006 of a vaccine against specific strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), 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 now looks for HPV (which causes almost all cervical cancers), not just abnormal cells (like the Pap test did)
- if you have previously had a Pap 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 age 25, rather than age 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 the 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 previous program.
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.
For more information
Other useful websites
Routine cervical screening is your best protection against cervical cancer
Cancer Council's leading experts have come together to explain what this means for you