The Cervical Screening Test is more effective than the Pap test. The Pap test used to look for cell changes in the cervix, whereas the Cervical Screening Test looks for the HPV which can lead to cell changes in the cervix. 

This means the Cervical Screening Test will catch what could eventually turn into cervical cancer one step earlier, and for that reason, women don’t need to have it as frequently as a Pap smear test.

The time between getting an infection and the infection perhaps turning into cervical cancer is very long. Infections with HPV are common in young people, but cervical cancer doesn’t become common until women are in their 30s, 40s or 50s. So even if you were infected the day after your HPV test, it’s extremely unlikely that it could progress to cancer within five years.  It’s very likely your body’s immune system would clear the virus itself in that timeframe, but if it doesn’t, it will be picked up at your next screening test.

Aggressive, fast-growing cancers are very rare and usually diagnosed when women see a doctor after noticing symptoms. All screening programs are designed for women without symptoms.

Cancer Council recommends that women of any age who have symptoms (including pain or abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge) should see their doctor immediately.

Claire's story

I can't stress enough how important it is that women go for their tests regularly. If I hadn't, I may not even have survived to tell my story. It's just a few minutes of embarrassment for something that could save your life."