General Practice

Are you up to date? National Cervical Cancer Awareness Week

Did you know that Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers and that regular cervical screening is your best protection against cervical cancer?

Are you up to date? National Cervical Cancer Awareness Week

It’s National Cervical Cancer Awareness Week brought to you by the National Cervical Screening Program on 12th-18th November 2018. We thought this was a great opportunity to remind you about the changes that have occurred when to comes to cervical screening and the importance of cervical screening.

Did you know that Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers and that regular cervical screening is your best protection against cervical cancer?

What is Cervical Cancer?

Cervical cancer is the growth of abnormal cells in the lining of the cervix. These abnormal cells can develop into tumours and in worst case scenarios – spread throughout the body. The cervix is part of the female reproductive system and is the narrow lower portion (or “neck”) of the uterus.

There are two main types of cervical cancer which are named after the cells they start in:

Squamous cell carcinoma: the most common type of cervical cancer (about 80% of all cases), squamous cell carcinoma starts in the squamous cells of the cervix.

Adenocarcinoma: a less common type of cervical cancer that develops from the glandular cells. Adenocarcinoma is more difficult to diagnose because it starts higher in the cervix, and is more difficult to reach with the brush or spatula used in a Cervical Screening Test.

You have probably heard by now that the historical ‘pap test’ has now changed in Australia. Below we cover what you need to know about the changes and what this then means for you.

As of December 2017, Pap Smears are not quite the same!

Cervical cancer screening in Australia has changed from two- yearly pap testing to five- yearly HPV testing. Although the examination is basically unchanged, pathology now will be looking for HPV-human papilloma virus-the virus that causes cervical cancer in 99% of cases.

Less often, more accurate

What’s changed: A Snap Shot

  • You'll be tested every five years, instead of every two
  • You won't start having tests until you're 25 years old, up from 18 years old
  • Self-collection using vaginal swabs will be an option for some women
  • Tests will now continue until you're 74, instead of stopping when you turn 69

Cervical screening as a routine only is available for 25-74 years and will now be performed only every 5 years. This sounds like a long time, but it takes 5-10 years for the virus to cause cancerous changes.

Why the switch?

The switch in testing is more accurate and expected to reduce cervical cancer rates by up 30%, and therefore resulting in fewer deaths and less anxiety for women about to have a pap test.

How is the Cervical Screening Test different to the Pap test?

The method of sample collection is the same in both the Pap test and the Cervical Screening Test – so if you’ve had a Pap test before, you won’t notice any difference at your screening appointment.

A Pap test (or Pap smear) looked for cells in the cervix that had changed or become abnormal. The Cervical Screening Test looks for HPV – the infection that causes these cell changes.

Do you still have to have the test if you're HPV vaccinated?

Yes. Even if you've had the HPV vaccine, you could still get it, and should be tested.

The vaccine, which is given to girls and boys aged between 12 and 14 as part of Australia's National HPV Vaccination Program, protects against the two most common types of HPV — but not all.

What else can I do to prevent cervical cancer?

• Take actions to decrease your risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STI); for example, always using condoms

• Consider the HPV vaccine. If you were not vaccinated as part of the school-based program, speak to your GP about whether this option is right for you

• Quitting smoking (or never starting) is a key step in protecting yourself against, and reducing your risk of, cervical cancer

Please speak with your GP and they will be happy to answer any questions you may have regarding these changes.

Women of any age who experience symptoms, such as pain or unusual bleeding, should speak to their doctor or nurse immediately and not wait for their next Cervical Screening Test.

Get reminded by text

A FREE national SMS reminder service for Australian women

90% of women who die from cervical cancer have not had regular cervical screening. Early detection by having a Cervical Screening Test is the best form of cervical cancer prevention.

Are you up to date?

If you are not sure if you are due for a screening or would like to book a cervical screen, please contact our team today.



Australian Cervical Cancer Foundation

National Cervical Screening Program