Information for women under 25
It's recommended that women and people with a cervix who have ever been sexually active start cervical screening at age 25.
Here you’ll find answers to the most commonly asked questions about what the Cervical Screening Test means for women and people with a cervix under the age of 25.
Cervical Screening Test: Your Frequently Asked Questions
If you're aged under 25 and have never screened, schedule your first Cervical Screening Test around the time of your 25th birthday.
Yes. Extensive research and monitoring by the National Cervical Screening Program since the program began in 1991 has shown that it is safe to wait until 25 for your first Cervical Screening Test.
Here is why:
- Cervical cancer is rare in women younger than 25.
- Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the cause of almost all cervical cancers. Most young women are protected against the main cancer-causing types of HPV through the HPV vaccine. If they have not had the vaccine themselves, ‘herd immunity’ provides some level of protection.
- When young people do have a HPV infection, it is usually transient. This means their immune system will clear it up and the infection will not cause harm.
- After more than 30 years of screening women under 25, the data shows there is little benefit to screening young women. There is evidence it can actually cause some harm. Treatment for minor cell changes can cause pain, bleeding and risk of infection. There is also a small risk of causing problems for future pregnancies.
No, the Cervical Screening Test has replaced the Pap test (or ‘Pap smear’). The changes were made to the National Cervical Screening Program in 2017 and are expected to protect up to 30% more women from cervical cancer.
Yes. Women and people with a cervix aged 25 to 74 who has ever been sexually active should have a Cervical Screening Test every five years, even if they've had the HPV vaccine.
The HPV vaccine protects against the main types of HPV which cause cervical cancer— but it does not protect against all cancer-causing types.
It's important to remember that this information is about screening. A Cervical Screening Test is one that is offered by routine, when there are no symptoms. It's different from tests offered when people have signs or symptoms of an illness.
Regular cervical screening is important to help keep you protected and healthy.
Women and people with a cervix of any age who have symptoms, including pain or abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge, should see their doctor immediately.
1. Department of Health, 2020. Information for healthcare providers about their role in the National Cervical Screening Program. Available at: http://www.cancerscreening.gov.au/internet/screening/publishing.nsf/Content/healthcare-providers
2. Tabrizi SN, Brotherton JM, Kaldor JM, Skinner SR, Liu B, Bateson D, McNamee K, Garefalakis M, Phillips S, Cummins E, Malloy M, Garland SM. Assessment of herd immunity and cross-protection after a human papillomavirus vaccination programme in Australia: a repeat cross-sectional study. Lancet Infect Dis. 2014 Oct;14(10):958-66. doi: 10.1016/S1473-3099(14)70841-2. Epub 2014 Aug 5. PMID: 25107680.
3. Department of Health, 2020. Information for healthcare providers about their role in the National Cervical Screening Program. Available at http://www.cancerscreening.gov.au/internet/screening/publishing.nsf/Content/healthcare-providers