This Is How Often You Need To Get A Pap Smear

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This Is How Often You Need To Get A Pap Smear

It’s an appointment we look forward to less than a brow tint or a spray tan, but one that’s necessary nonetheless.  We’re talking about the mildly uncomfortable and incredibly important pap smear. Which, in 2017 (unbeknownst to some of us), underwent some changes to its name, effectiveness and requirements.

What was once known as the Pap Test, today holds the official title of: Cervical Screening Test. Flashy name aside, the improvements to this routine screening have been predicted to protect up to 30 per cent more women. 

Unlike the original Pap Test, which detected cell changes in the cervix, the Cervical Screening Test gets on the front foot by looking for human papillomavirus (HPV); a virus responsible for causing these initial cell changes. 

As for continuing to refer to this routine check-up as a “pap smear”, that’s perfectly acceptable — we will be. However, there is one change that’s important to note, and that’s how often you actually need to be getting one.

So to update you on the current pap smear requirements, as well as refreshing you on why we need them and who is eligible, here’s everything you need to note about the routine screening that’s protecting us from developing cervical cancer…

What is a Cervical Screening Test AKA a pap smear?

The Cervical Screening Test is a straightforward medical assessment in which cells are collected from the cervix. These cells are then tested for the presence of human papillomavirus (HPV), a virus that can cause cervical cancer. 

Do you still need a cervical screening even though you’ve been vaccinated against HPV?

In short, yes. While the HPV vaccine does an incredible job of protecting you from a lot of HPV variations, you aren’t protected from them all. According to the Australian Government Department of Health, “[the HPV vaccine] protects against up to nine types of HPV, including those that cause around 70 per cent of cervical cancers. Since the HPV vaccine does not protect against all types of HPV that can cause cervical cancer, vaccinated women still need to have regular cervical screening.”

Who needs a pap smear?

If you meet the following criteria, you are eligible for regular testing:

  • You are someone that has a cervix
  • You’re between the ages of 25 and 74
  • You’ve ever been sexually active

How often do we need a pap smear?

If you only remember one point about the new system, let it be this: screenings within Australia following an initial test are now required every five years, unless your doctor advises otherwise. 

Where do we get one?

Within Australia, Cervical Screening Tests are available from: doctors clinics, community health centres, women’s health centres, family planning clinics, sexual health clinics and from the Aboriginal Medical Service or Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service. 

Health care providers including doctors, nurses and gynaecologists are all eligible to perform Cervical Screening Tests.

How do we know when we’re due for a screening?

If you’re a patient with a regular GP, they’ll have your last screening on record. 

Otherwise, to find out when you’re next due or to update your contact details, contact the National Cancer Screening Register on 1800 627 701.

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How well did you know the current pap smear recommendations?

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Comments 42

  1. Last time I had a pap smear my GP said it would be five years till the next one. That’s such a relief, although it will now be harder for me to remember when the next one will be due. Fortunately my GP usually sends out reminder letters.

  2. Since about the age of 21 I made sure a regular pap smear was part of my health care plan. At one stage I had to have one every six months for two years – not pleasant, but necessary.

    Paps used to be done every year, then it changed to every two years and now it’s every 5 years. At my age, I only have one to go.

  3. I always diarise my regular scans, pokes & prods. I just checked my calendar – my last cervical screen was 2019, so I’m not due until 2024.

    As a patient, the new testing procedure seems the same as the old pap test. Every 5 years is a whole lot better than every 2!

    • It just takes a moment to call, Jodes – you should do it!

      I always feel peace of mind after ticking my cervical screen, mammogram, skin check & bowel screen off my to-do list. I get EVERYTHING tested – then I don’t stress about it.

  4. Glad to be done with PAPs. I had a total hysterectomy so no more cervix so no more PAPs for me. I did have my fair share though considering I had a badish one once and had to have one every six months after a biopsy until I went two years with normal ones…it was a lot…

  5. I was doing a Pap smear yearly due to low grade cells on my cervix and have been cleared to five yearly and I think this is very important to do, please don’t feel ashamed to do it re: if you’re scared choose a female doctor, bring a support person with you.

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