1.1.2 Screening

The National Cervical Screening Program aims to prevent cervical cancer by detecting early changes in the cervix. A five-yearly HPV test for women aged 25–74 years began on 1 December 2017 to replace the previous two-yearly Pap test for women aged 18–69 years. The cervical screening test checks for the presence of HPV, the causal agent for most cervical cancers (Australian Government Department of Health 2017).

Self-sampling is available to women at least 30 years of age and who are considered under- screened (four or more years since last Pap test), or who have never been screened and who decline a practitioner-collected specimen. Self-collection is a vaginal swab for HPV testing.

HPV-vaccinated women still require cervical screening tests because the HPV vaccine does not protect against all the types of HPV that cause cervical cancer.

Primary health practitioners, including general practitioners and nurses, play a crucial role in encouraging women to screen regularly.

For more information refer to the 2016 guidelines: The National Cervical Screening Program: guidelines for the management of screen-detected abnormalities, screening in specific populations and investigation of abnormal vaginal bleeding.