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What is a pap test?

You may be familiar with the term ‘Pap test’ or ‘Pap smear’ when discussing cervical screening.

A Pap test was the test used previously to screen women for changes to their cervical cells which, if left untreated, could lead to cervical cancer.

From December 2017, the Pap test was replaced by the Cervical Screening Test. The Cervical Screening Test looks for the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is the cause of almost all cervical cancers.

Is the procedure for the Cervical Screening Test different to the Pap test?

No - if you’ve had a Pap test before, your screening experience with the Cervical Screening Test will be the same, as the procedure for collecting the cell sample is the same for both tests. The good news is, following a normal Cervical Screening Test result, you won’t need another test for five years.

Why was the Pap test replaced?

The Pap test was replaced with the Cervical Screening Test because of a better understanding of how cervical cancer develops, primarily the fact that it is caused by HPV in almost every case. The Cervical Screening Test looks for HPV in the cells of the cervix, and can identify women at higher risk of developing cervical cancer.

 
Cervical Screening Before December 2017:
Pap Test
Cervical Screening After December 2017:
Cervical Screening Test
About the test Looked for abnormal cell changes in the cervix Looks for human papillomavirus (HPV) - the cause of abnormal cell changes in the cervix
Eligibility Women aged 18-69 who have ever been sexually active Women aged 25-74 who have ever been sexually active
Frequency One test every 2 years if last test result is normal One test every 5 years if last test result is normal 
Method of sample collection A speculum is inserted into the vagina and a sample of cervical cells is taken
Self-collection available? No

Self-collection available for some eligible women aged over 30, who have never screened or are overdue for screening by two or more years.

Talk to your doctor about self-collection.

Test duration A few minutes
Test providers Doctor or nurse