Frequently asked questions

Some frequently asked questions about cervical screening.

Page last updated: 11 May 2015

I've heard the cervical screening test will change, what is the change and when?
The two yearly Pap test will be replaced by a five yearly HP test in 2017. Further information can be found at Future changes to cervical screening

Do I still need screening if I'm not sexually active?
All women with a cervix who have ever had sex are at risk of cervical cancer, even if they are not currently sexually active, and are recommended to screen until 69 years of age.

If you have never been sexually active, cervical screening is not recommended. Evidence shows that if a woman has never been sexually active then her risk of developing cervical cancer is low.

Do I still need screening if I am in a same sex relationship?
Yes. HPV can be transmitted between women, therefore screening is recommended.

Do I still need screening if I'm pregnant?
The National Cervical Screening Program recommends that cervical screening should be offered to every woman presenting for antenatal care who has not been screened within the past two years.

Do I still need screening if I have been exposed to diethyl stilboestrol (DES)?
DES-exposed women should be offered annual screening and have a colposcopic examination of both the cervix and the vagina. Screening should begin any time at the woman’s request and continue indefinitely.

Do I still need screening if I've had a hysterectomy?
Following a hysterectomy, women should discuss their ongoing need for cervical screening with their doctor.

Do I still need screening if I’ve been through menopause?
Yes. If you have ever had any sexual activity, even with only one partner, it is important to have screening until you are 69 years of age.

Should women with disabilities have screening?
Yes, all women with a cervix who have ever had sex are at risk of cervical cancer. In all states and territories women have access to a free telephone helpline (13 15 56) for further information on cervical screening, including access issues.

Will treatment for cervical abnormalities affect my future childbearing?
The benefits and risk of treating cervical abnormalities should be discussed with your doctor, as the potential benefits and harms will vary between individual women.

What if I can’t remember when to have my next Pap smear?
You can ask the health practitioner who did your last Pap smear or contact your state or territory cervical screening register.

More information and contact details for cervical screening registers in each state and territory are available at Program Register.

Am I at greater risk of cervical cancer if I take drugs that suppress my immune system?
In general, immunosuppressed women are at greater risk of developing cervical cancer. It is recommended that if an immunosuppressed woman has a screen-detected abnormality (even if the cell changes are low-grade), she should be referred for a colposcopy.

Can ovarian cancer be detected with a Pap smear?
No. There are different tests and procedures for diagnosing ovarian cancer. More information is available on the Cancer Australia website.

What about women who do not speak English?
Our non-English resource page contains translated material on cervical screening and what an abnormal result means.

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