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What to expect at my first screen

If you are having a Cervical Screening Test/ Pap test for the first time it may help to discuss the test with your doctor, nurse, community health or Aboriginal health worker who will explain the quick and simple process with you. 

Your first Cervical Screening Test

Having your Cervical Screening Test for the first time? It is normal to feel anxious. After all, we are sure there are plenty of other activities you would rather be doing!

But the main thing to remember is this:

Cervical screening may be a little uncomfortable, but it’s a small amount of discomfort for a whole lot of peace of mind.

By preventing cervical cancer, a Cervical Screening Test (the Pap test replacement*) can save your life.

What can I do if I feel anxious about my first screen?

If you’re feeling worried about your Cervical Screening Test, you might find it helpful to discuss what’s involved with your doctor or nurse first. It’s ok to ask lots of questions if that helps you feel more comfortable. You can also bring a friend or family member along with you to your cervical screening appointment.

Your doctor or nurse can explain the process to you, and answer any questions or concerns you might have about the test.

Who will perform my Cervical Screening Test?

Most women have their Cervical Screening Test with their own doctor, so check that your practice offers cervical screening when you call to make your appointment. You do not need to see a specialist, like a gynaecologist, for your Cervical Screening Test.

If you don’t feel comfortable seeing your regular family doctor for your test, you are welcome to choose another doctor or nurse.

The Cervical Screening Test can also be performed by a woman’s health nurse in a community or woman’s health centre, or a Family Planning clinic. If you’re an Aboriginal woman, you can choose to have your test at an Aboriginal Medical Service or Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service.

All doctors or nurses are highly experienced and will help you feel as comfortable as possible during the procedure. Remember, they perform these tests all the time as part of their jobs - so there’s no need to feel embarrassed or self-conscious.

What if I need an interpreter?

Interpreters are available to help you make your cervical screening appointment, as well as to provide support during your test.

The interpreter doesn’t have to stay in the room while you’re having your test – they can sit outside and explain what’s happening by phone.

If you need assistance from an interpreter, call 13 14 50.

Cervical Screening: What’s Stopping You?

The latest research shows that just over 40% of eligible women don’t attend regular cervical screening. So, are you a ‘screen skipper’?

I haven’t gone for my Cervical Screening Test because:

It’s embarrassing!

Feeling too self-conscious to have your cervical screen? It’s natural to feel awkward about it, but there’s no need to be embarrassed! All test providers are respectful of your privacy and anything you tell them is confidential. They undertake this procedure all the time – it’s a normal part of their job.

Plus, if the thought of seeing your regular doctor for your Cervical Screening Test makes you blush, you can choose to have your test with another doctor or nurse.

I’ve heard it’s uncomfortable

Ok, we admit that cervical screening isn’t the most comfortable experience! But the fact is, those few minutes of discomfort could save your life.

Remember, cervical screening prevents cervical cancer - so putting up with a few minutes of awkwardness could result in a lot less discomfort in the long run.

I don’t have time

Your Cervical Screening Test usually takes no more than a few minutes and, if your results are normal, you only need to have the test once every five years*. We can all make the time to keep ourselves healthy.

* If you are over 25 and have been having Pap tests, you will be due for your first Cervical Screening Test two years after your last Pap test, then every five years following a normal test result (a result where HPV was not found).

Most women have their test with their regular doctor, or choose another doctor or nurse in their local area. You don’t need to visit a specialist for cervical screening.

I’m scared it will be painful

While the Cervical Screening Test may be uncomfortable, it shouldn’t hurt. The doctor or nurse will do all they can to make the procedure as comfortable as possible for you. If you do feel pain, you should tell your provider so they can help, e.g. by using more lubricant.

I’ve only had one sexual partner

The Cervical Screening Test is for all women aged 25-74 who have ever been sexually active.

This includes women who have only had sex with one partner, as well as those who have only had sex with other women.

For more information, visit Who is Cervical Screening For?

I feel OK and don’t have any symptoms

Cervical screening is for healthy women who aren’t experiencing any symptoms.

The Cervical Screening Test looks for human papillomavirus (HPV), the cause of almost all cervical cancers. Most women with an HPV infection aren’t even aware they have one, as there are usually no symptoms.

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