Your take home guide to: The Cervical Screening Test

When life gets busy, it's not always easy to find time to take care of ourselves.

By getting regular Cervical Screening Tests, cervical cancer becomes one of Australia's most preventable cancers.

What is the Cervical Screening Test?

The Cervical Screening Test has replaced the Pap test. The Cervical Screening Test is more accurate as it detects human papillomavirus (HPV), the virus which can cause abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix. If left untreated these cell changes can eventually cause cervical cancer.

Who should have a Cervical Screening Test?

Women and people with a cervix, aged between 25 and 74 who have ever been sexually active. This includes people who:

  • are HPV vaccinated or unvaccinated
  • haven't been sexually active for a long time
  • have only had sex with one partner
  • have only had sex with women

How often should you have a Cervical Screening Test?

If you have been having Pap tests and you are 25 or over, your first Cervical Screening Test will be due two years after your last Pap test. If your result is normal (no HPV found), then your next test will be due in five years.

If you have never had a Pap test, once you turn 25, you should have a Cervical Screening Test. If the result is normal (no HPV found), then your next test will be due in five years.

What is HPV?

HPV is a common virus spread through sexual activity and is the cause of almost all cervical cancers. Most people will have HPV at some point in their life and it often clears up on its own without causing any issues. Cervical cancer is a rare outcome of an HPV infection that doesn't clear up by itself.

Sexual activity includes:

  • vaginal, oral or anal sex
  • genital (penis or vaginal) skin-to-skin contact
  • sharing of sex toys

What if I have been vaccinated for HPV?

The HPV vaccine (known as Gardasil) reduces your risk of developing cervical cancer. It protects you against the types of HPV that cause the majority of cervical cancers but does not protect against all of them. Even if you are vaccinated you still need to have regular Cervical Screening Tests.

Where can you get a Cervical Screening Test?

You can make an appointment at a:

  • Family Planning NSW clinic
  • local doctor or general practice (GP)
  • local Aboriginal Medical Service
  • women's health centre

You can bring a support person to your appointment to make you feel more comfortable. You can ask if a female doctor or nurse is available to do the test.

How is a Cervical Screening Test done?

The Cervical Screening Test is quick and simple and only takes a few minutes. The doctor or nurse will explain what will happen during the test. Knowing what to expect will allow you to relax and make the test more comfortable.

The way the Cervical Screening Test is done looks and feels the same as the Pap test. A speculum is inserted into your vagina to help the doctor or nurse see your cervix. The doctor or nurse will then collect a small sample of cells to send to a laboratory. The test should not hurt at all, but you might feel a bit of discomfort.

Some people aged 30 years and over may be eligible to do a self-collected Cervical Screening Test at a clinic. You can talk to your doctor for more information.

Results

The doctor or nurse will let you know when your results will be available. If your result shows that you have HPV, it means that you may be at risk of developing cervical cancer in the future. Your doctor will talk to you about what happens next. If your result does not find HPV, you will be due for another Cervical Screening Test in five years.

Worried you won't remember when to have your next test? The National Cervical Screening Register will send you a letter when your next Cervical Screening Test is due.

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