About the National Cervical Screening Program

Learn more about the National Cervical Screening Program, its achievements and how it has evolved over time.

What is the National Cervical Screening Program?

The National Cervical Screening Program (NCSP) is a Government-funded initiative established in 1991. Its aim is to reduce cases of deaths from cervical cancer in Australian women.

The NCSP’s purpose is to identify women at a higher risk of developing cervical cancer, so they can be monitored and treated if necessary.

To do this, the NCSP provides a Cervical Screening Test which looks for the presence of human papillomavirus (HPV). In almost all cases, a HPV infection that does not clear up is the first step in the development of cervical cancer.


A young mother holding her toddler in a community garden

Did you know that Australia has one of the lowest rates of cervical cancer in the world?[1]

This is largely due to the success of the National Cervical Screening Program and the support of health professionals in encouraging eligible women to have regular cervical screening. 

Since the introduction of the NCSP, the number of both cervical cancer cases and deaths from cervical cancer has reduced by half.

Changes to the National Cervical Screening Program

In December 2017, there were several changes made to the NCSP. These changes were based on advances in science and technology, and improved understanding of how cervical cancer develops.

One of the most significant changes was a new Cervical Screening Test which replaced the Pap test. 

Unlike the Pap test which only looked for changes to cells in the cervix , the Cervical Screening Test looks for human papillomavirus (HPV), which is the main cause of almost all cervical cancers.

The changes made to cervical screening in Australia are expected to protect up to 30% more women from cervical cancer.[2]



1. Global cancer statistics 2018: GLOBOCAN estimates of incidence and mortality worldwide for 36 cancers in 185 countries, Freddie Bray  1 , Jacques Ferlay  2 , Isabelle Soerjomataram  3 , Rebecca L Siegel  4 , Lindsey A Torre  5 , Ahmedin Jemal; CA Cancer J Clin Actions. 2018 Nov; 68(6): 394-424.

2. Department of Health, 2020. National Cervical Screening Program. Available at: http://www.cancerscreening.gov.au/internet/screening/publishing.nsf/Content/cervical-screening–to1