Cervical Screening

Australia has one of the lowest rates of cervical cancer in the world. This is largely due to the success of the National Cervical Screening Program (NCSP) (external site), introduced in 1991 as a joint Australian, State and Territory Government initiative.

 

Cervical screening information

Regular cervical screening is your best protection against cervical cancer. Most people who develop cervical cancer in Australia have either never screened or do not screen regularly.

In Australia, all women and people with a cervix aged 25 to 74 years who have ever been sexually active should have a Cervical Screening Test every 5 years. Being screened regularly means that the human papillomavirus (HPV) and any changes it may cause to the cells of the cervix can be found early. These cell changes can then be monitored and, if needed, treated to prevent cervical cancer.

What is human papillomavirus (HPV)? 

There are many types of HPV infections and most are cleared naturally by the body’s immune system within one to two years without causing problems.

HPV is a very common infection that is spread by genital-skin to skin contact during sexual activity. HPV is so common that many people have it at some point in their lives and never know it as there are usually no symptoms.

In some cases, a HPV infection that is not cleared by the body can cause abnormal cervical cell changes. If left undetected and/or untreated, these changes can develop into cervical cancer. It usually takes more than 10 to 15 years for a persistent HPV infection to develop into cervical cancer.

Access the HealthyWA website (external site) for more information on HPV.

The HPV vaccine (external site) can protect against some types of cancer-causing HPV, including types 16 and 18. Since the HPV vaccine does not protect against all types of HPV known to cause cervical cancer, HPV vaccinated women still need to have regular cervical screening.

Cervical screening for health professionals

For more information about cervical screening visit cervical screening for health professionals.

Last Updated: 29/07/2022