What happens at a cervical screen?

The Cervical Screening Test is a quick test that can be done in a few minutes by your doctor, nurse, community health or Aboriginal health worker in a clinic or consulting room.

Your Cervical Screening Test

You’ll be pleased to know the Cervical Screening Test (the Pap test replacement*) is a very short procedure - it usually only takes a few minutes and, if your results are normal, you only need to have one every five years.

Some women find the process uncomfortable, but it’s important to remember that the test can save your life by preventing cervical cancer.

A few minutes every five years is a little bit of awkward for a lot of peace of mind!

To find out what’s involved, read our 3-step guide to what takes place at a cervical screen.

What happens at a cervical screening appointment?

1. Getting ready for your test

When you arrive for your Cervical Screening Test, the nurse or doctor will take you to a private room, where they will talk to you about the test and what it involves. When you’re ready for the test, you’ll be asked to remove your clothing from below the waist and lie down on the bed.

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  • Wearing a two-piece outfit, e.g. a skirt or pants with a top, will make it easier to remove just your lower clothes while keeping your top on
  • The doctor or nurse will usually give you a sheet to cover yourself

2. Having your test

You’ll be asked to lie on your back with your knees apart. When you’re comfortable, the doctor or nurse will gently insert a speculum into your vagina – this holds your vagina open and makes it easier to see your cervix. 

A sample of cells are collected from your cervix and sent to the laboratory for testing.

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  • Your doctor or nurse may warm the speculum to make the test more comfortable
  • It may feel uncomfortable when the doctor or nurse is collecting the sample, but it shouldn’t hurt. Tell your doctor or nurse if you feel any pain

3. After your test

When your Cervical Screening Test is complete, you can get dressed in private while the doctor or nurse prepares your sample.

The cells are placed in a bottle containing a special liquid to preserve them - this is sent to a laboratory for testing. Your doctor or nurse will explain how you will get your results.

The good news is, if HPV is not found in your cells, you won’t need another Cervical Screening Test for 5 years.

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Good to know

Your Cervical Screening Test:

  • Usually only takes a few minutes
  • Is completely safe
  • May be uncomfortable, but should not be painful
  • Is performed by health providers all the time as part of their job
  • Prevents cervical cancer and could save your life
  • Even if you’ve had the HPV vaccine, you still need regular cervical screening. Have your first Cervical Screening Test two years after your last Pap test

Where do I go for cervical screening?

Your local doctor or nurse can perform your Cervical Screening Test, but if you don’t want to see your family doctor for cervical screening, there are other places you can go. 

Other places you can go include:

  • Women’s Health Nurse, through your Local Health District or Community Health Centre
  • Women’s Health Centre
  • Family Planning NSW
  • Aboriginal Medical Service or Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service.

Choose a place that is convenient and where you feel most comfortable.

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Do I need a cervical screen if I’m HPV-vaccinated?

Yes - even if you’ve had the HPV vaccine, you still need regular cervical screening. Have your first Cervical Screening Test two years after your last Pap test. If you haven't had cervical screening before and are 25 years or older, book an appointment today.

* In December 2017, the Cervical Screening Test replaced the Pap test as the method of screening women to prevent cervical cancer in Australia.