Cervical screening changed in Australia in late 2017. The Pap smear was replaced with a new, more accurate Cervical Screening Test. The new test looks for the cause of most cervical cancer, human papilloma virus (HPV). If you’ve had a Pap smear before, the way the test is done will look and feel the same. The procedure might be a bit uncomfortable, but it shouldn’t be painful.
If you are a person with a cervix aged 25-74 years, and have ever been sexually active, you should have a Cervical Screening Test every five years until the age of 74. Your first test is due at 25 years of age or two years after your last Pap test.
HPV is a common infection easily passed on through unprotected sexual activity, and in the past 4 out of 5 people will have had it at some point in their lifetime (most won’t even know it). Most HPV infections are naturally cleared by the body’s immune system in about two years without causing any problems. If the body does not clear the virus, cervical cells can change, and this may lead to cervical cancer. This usually take over 10 years.
The HPV vaccine does not protect against all types of HPV that can cause cervical cancer, so it is important to continue regular screening even after having the HPV vaccine.
For more information about cervical screening go to http://www.healthywa.wa.gov.au/cervicalscreening