Cervical cancer is one of few cancers that can be largely prevented through screening (Pap tests). Most women diagnosed with cervical cancer have not had regular Pap tests.

The National Cervical Screening Program currently recommends that all women between the ages of 18 – 69, who have ever been sexually active, have a Pap test every 2 years. Women should start having regular Pap tests when they turn 18-20 or two years after they become sexually active, whichever happens later. 

The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is the virus responsible for most cases of cervical cancer. A vaccine against HPV has been available in Australia since 2007.

For more information about the HPV vaccine, please visit HPV Vaccine

Pap tests look for cellular changes associated with cervical cancer. The Pap test is a painless procedure that involves a credentialed health professional using special equipment (a tiny brush) to obtain a sample of cells from the cervix at the top of the vagina. These cells are then examined in a laboratory to look for early changes that may need further investigation.

For more information about Pap tests, please visit Pap Screen Victoria

Once you start, you need to keep having Pap tests every two years, even if:

  • you've had the cervical cancer vaccine
  • you've only been sexually active once
  • you've only had one sexual partner
  • you're no longer sexually active
  • you're a lesbian
  • you've gone through menopause.

Women who have never been sexually active don't need to have Pap tests.

In May 2017 Pap tests will be replaced by HPV tests which are more sensitive and will generally mean that women aged 25 to 74 years, both HPV vaccinated and unvaccinated, will be invited to undertake an HPV test every 5 years instead of every 2 years.

Women participating in the Compass trial may be offered the new cervical screening test prior to 1 May 2017. For more information about the Compass trial, please visit Compass

Organisations that specialise in this area of reproductive and/or sexual health

Where to get more information, support or advice

  • Contact your local doctor (GP)
  • Contact Family Planning Victoria's clinics


This website provides general information only. The suitability of such general information  varies  from   person  to   person,  depending  on individual circumstances.   You should seek specific medical or legal advice for your individual circumstances.

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The copyright for material on this website is owned by Family Planning Victoria (or, in some cases, by third parties) and is subject to the Copyright Act 1968. We permit you to reproduce or communicate our copyright material if you are a not-for-profit educational organisation, for  the purpose of providing the information to your students provided that you include any disclaimers associated with that material.  Any other reproduction or communication of our material requires our prior consent, via our consent form which you can complete and submit.

Last updated: 5 June 2016

Contact us


Telephone: 03 9257 0100 or freecall 1800 013 952

Fax: 03 9257 0111

Email: clinic@fpv.org.au

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