FAQs about cervical screening for women 25 and over
The Cervical Screening Test is for women and people with a cervix aged 25-74 who have ever been sexually active.
You still need to do the Cervical Screening Test if you:
- are HPV-vaccinated or not;
- have only had one sexual partner;
- are no longer sexually active;
- have only been sexually active with women.
The Cervical Screening Test looks for human papillomavirus (HPV), a common virus in women and men. A HPV infection that does not clear up can cause changes in the cells of the cervix, which may eventually lead to cervical cancer.
Most women with an HPV infection will not have symptoms.
Cervical screening every five years could save your life.
FAQs about cervical screening
If you have been sexually active (even with just one partner), you should have your first Cervical Screening Test at the age of 25. If your test results are normal (HPV not found), you will be invited back for your next Cervical Screening Test in five years.
The test usually only takes a few minutes and while it may be a little uncomfortable, it will give you a lot of peace of mind.
Yes, you can have a Cervical Screening Test at any stage in your menstrual cycle. However, most women find it more comfortable to schedule their appointment at a time they are not bleeding.
Almost all cervical cancers are caused by HPV infection that does not clear up.
Cervical cancer usually takes 10–15 years to develop from HPV infection.
The chance of cancer developing between your Cervical Screening Tests is very low, even if you were to be infected with HPV the day after your test.
Some people find the Cervical Screening Test uncomfortable, but the test can save your life by preventing cervical cancer. A few minutes every five years is a bit of discomfort for a lot of peace of mind.
There are some things you and your health provider can do to make your screening test easier and more comfortable.
Eight tips to make your cervical screening more comfortable >
Women who have had a hysterectomy should check with their doctor if they need to continue to have cervical screenings.
A Cervical Screening Test is a quick and simple procedure that looks for a human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. HPV is the cause of almost all cases of cervical cancer.
The procedure can be performed by a health professional or by yourself through self-collection.
The test collects a sample of cells from your cervix that are then sent to a laboratory for testing.
Learn more about what happens at a cervical screening appointment >
If you are aged between 70 and 74, you will be invited to have a final Cervical Screening Test, called an exit test. If this test is normal meaning there is no HPV, you will not need to attend a further screening.
Still not sure about the test?
More than 70% of cervical cancers occur in women who have never been screened or are not up-to-date with their cervical screening.
Common reasons some people avoid cervical screening
The types of HPV most likely to cause cervical cancer have no symptoms which is why screening is so important.
Even if you have had the HPV vaccine, you still need to attend your five-yearly Cervical Screening Test.
Cervical cancer can take 10–15 years to develop, so even if you are no longer having sex, you still need to have your Cervical Screening Test every five years.
The Cervical Screening Test is safe for pregnant women. So, if you are pregnant, you can still have your test when it is due.
HPV infection (the primary cause of cervical cancer) is transmitted through direct genital skin-to-skin contact. It does not matter if you have had sex with only women, men or both, you are still at risk of being infected with HPV.
Anyone with a cervix should have a Cervical Screening Test every five years, including transgender people who have changed their gender from female to male.
Even if you've only been sexually active with one partner, you still need to have regular Cervical Screening Tests.
You should continue having your Cervical Screening Test every five years, up to the age of 74, even after you have been through menopause.
1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2020. National Cervical Screening Program monitoring report 2020. Cancer series 130. Cat. no. CAN 138. Canberra: AIHW. https://www.aihw.gov.au/getmedia/dfb6c1fa–to6c45–to45de-a513–to0f13a3739a53/aihw-can–to138.pdf.aspx?inline=tr