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The New Cervical Screening Test in Australia

The new five-yearly Cervical Screening Test for women aged 25-74 is a simple procedure to check the health of your cervix. The way the test is done will feel the same as a Pap test.

The test is based on the latest medical and scientific evidence, and it detects the virus that causes cervical abnormalities – the Human papillomavirus (HPV). The Cervical Screening Test replaces the two-yearly Pap test.

HPV is a common virus that can cause changes to cells in the cervix, which in some cases can develop into cervical disease. Following your first Cervical Screening Test, if your results are normal, you will only need to have one every five years instead of every two years.

More information about the Cervical Screening Test is available here.


The ThinPrep system combines scientifically-proven technology used to prepare the sample of cervical cells collected by a healthcare professional and a computerised analysis system used by the laboratory to highlight potentially abnormal cells. The two components – the ThinPrep Pap test and the ThinPrep Imaging System – have been extensively studied and used around the world including Australia.1

A more effective Pap Test

The ThinPrep Pap test was developed to address some limitations of the conventional Pap test. Studies around the world prove the ThinPrep system is significantly more effective at detecting abnormalities and determining if a woman’s cervix is truly healthy.1

How the ThinPrep Pap test works?

The ThinPrep Pap test is a liquid-based Cervical Screening Test where a woman’s cells are collected by a healthcare professional, transported to the laboratory in the preservative medium and when required, is processed on to a glass slide in a thin, even layer which improves the quality of the slide.1*

Extensively studied and used around the world

The ThinPrep Pap test and ThinPrep Imaging System have undergone more than 170 independent, peer reviewed clinical studies around the world, including Australia. The ThinPrep system is widely used across the developed world, including the USA, the United Kingdom and New Zealand.1-3

How much Cervical Screening Test or ThinPrep Pap test costs?

The Cervical Screening Test provided as part of the new cervical screening program is available to women at no cost. However, it is important to consult your doctor or pathology provider to determine if out of pocket costs may be involved for additional tests such as the ThinPrep Pap test
Learn more about the renewed screening program and the costs here:

Common questions about cervical disease and Human Pappillomavirus (HPV)

Could I have cervical abnormalities?

It is unlikely that you would be able to tell on your own. Abnormal cells usually don’t cause symptoms. That’s why routine Cervical Screening Tests is recommended every 5 years for early detection and treatment. If you are experiencing unusual bleeding, pelvic pain, or urinary pain, you should speak with your doctor.

How does someone get HPV?

HPV is a group of over 100 virus types that are transmitted by skin-to-skin genital contact. As many as four in five sexually active women will be infected with HPV at some point in their lives.3-5 Infection with HPV is so common it can be considered a normal part of being sexually active.

I have HPV — will it progress to something serious?

Most likely not. About 90% of HPV infections will clear on their own in 2 years. In most cases when a woman acquires HPV, her body (immune system) naturally removes the virus and it does not cause any problems. However some women are unable to clear the virus and this persistent infection puts a woman at greater risk of developing cervical disease.7

What is a Cervical Screening Test?

A Cervical Screening Test is a simple test, usually performed by a GP or nurse, to check for the presence of Human papillomavirus virus. The presence of higher risk HPV types may act as an early warning sign that cervical disease may develop in the future.8 If higher risk HPV is detected, the laboratory will analyse the cells collected at the time the Cervical Screening Test was performed by your doctor. Cells are collected from the cervix and sent to a laboratory where they are reviewed under a microscope for anything unusual.

Common questions about cervical screening & vaccination

How often should I have a Cervical Screening Test?

The Australian Government’s National Cervical Screening Program recommends all women who have ever been sexually active have a Cervical Screening Test every 5 years from the age of 25 until the age of 74, even if you have had the HPV vaccine.¹

What can I do to prepare for my Cervical Screening Test?

The best time to schedule your Cervical Screening Test is 10 to 14 days following the first day of your last period. Avoid vaginal medication, lubricants and vaginal contraceptives for 2 days before your Cervical Screening Test.

Is there any reason to get a Cervical Screening Test more than once every 5 years?

Some women may need to have a Cervical Screening Test more often. Your doctor may recommend this for reasons such as: if you have a compromised immune system; if you have had a previous abnormal Cervical Screening or Pap Test; if you have previously had treatment for cervical abnormalities; or if you tested positive for a persistent HPV infection.

I've had a hysterectomy - do I still need a Cervical Screening Test?

Women may still need Cervical Screening Tests after a hysterectomy, depending on the type of hysterectomy they have had and the reasons for the surgery.2 Your health professional can advise you.

What is an HPV test?

An HPV test is a part of the Cervical Screening Test which looks for high-risk HPV infections. Testing positive with an HPV test does not mean that you have cervical abnormalities. It simply means that you currently have high-risk HPV and your doctor will discuss the outcome of your results with you.

Can I get the HPV vaccine?

The National HPV Vaccination Program is for girls and boys aged 12 and 13. However older females and males might benefit from the vaccine. Discuss your specific situation with your doctor to see if the HPV vaccine is right for you.

Will the HPV vaccine protect me from cervical disease?

Vaccination protects women against the two main types of HPV which cause 70% of cervical disease cases, however as it may not protect women against the HPV types that cause the remaining 30% of cases, routine Cervical Screening Tests every 5 years are still essential.1

Understanding Positive Cervical Screening Tests

A positive Cervical Screening Test result does not necessarily mean something serious. It can occur for many different reasons. When detected early, most of the causes of a positive Cervical Screening Test result can be followed up appropriately.1

Should I be worried?

Many women may feel anxious if their Cervical Screening Test result is positive for high-risk HPV. If your result indicates the presence of high-risk HPV types, your healthcare provider will follow up with you to advise of the next steps including whether further testing is required.

Is further testing needed?

If you have a positive Cervical Screening Test result, further testing may be necessary. Other testing may include a reflex liquid based cytology test such as the ThinPrep Pap test which was collected at the time of the Cervical Screening Test, a pelvic exam, a colposcopy or biopsy.

  1. Data on file with Hologic, Inc.
  2. Davey E, et al. Accuracy of reading liquid based cytology slides using the ThinPrep Imager compared with conventional cytology: prospective study. British Medical Journal. 2007;335(7609):28
  3. ThinPrep 2000 System Package Insert 2011
  4. United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA)
  5. Roberts J.M. A Three-Armed Trial of the ThinPrep Imaging System. Diagnostic Cytopathology, vol. 35, no. 2, 96-102, 20
  1. World Health Organisation -
    cancer=29&type=0&statistic=0&prevalence=0&color_palette=default. Accessed May 2017.
  2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). Cervical screening in Australia 2007–2008. Cancer series No. 54. Cat. no. CAN 50. 2010: Canberra
  3. Baseman and Koutsky. The epidemiology of human Papillomavirus infections, J Clin Virology 2005; 32S: S16-24
  4. Ho et al. Natural History of Cervicovaginal Papillomavirus Infection in Young Women. N Engl J Med 1998; 338(7): 423-8
  5. Brown et al, A Longitudinal Study of Genital Human Papillomavirus Infection in a Cohort of Closely Followed Adolescent Women, J Infect Dis 2005; 191: 182-92
  1. The Australian National Cervical Screening Program (NCSP) - Accessed May 2017.
  2. National Health & Medical Research Council (NHMRC): Australian Government, Screening to prevent cervical cancer: guidelines for management of asymptomatic women with screen detected abnormalities, Commonwealth of Australia, 2005
  3. Rodriguez, et al. Rapid clearance of human Papillomavirus and implications for clinical focus on persistent infections. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2008;100:513-17
  1. Cancer Council Australia - Accessed May 2017.
  2. An abnormal Pap smear result: What this means for you booklet. National Cervical Screening Program. Commonwealth of Australia
  3. Stanley M., Immune responses to human Papillomavirus, Vaccine 2006; 24: S1-S6
  4. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). Cervical screening in Australia 2007–2008. Cancer series No. 54. Cat. no. CAN 50. 2010: Canberra
  5. Bell S, et al, Psychological response to cervical screening, Prevent Med 1995; 24:610 16
  6. Basen-Engquist K, et al, Cervical cancer- Behavioral factors related to screening, diagnosis and survivor’s quality of life, Cancer 2003; 98 (9 Suppl); 2009-2014
  7. An abnormal Pap smear result: What this means for you booklet. National Cervical Screening Program. Commonwealth of Australia 2006
  8. Wain GV. Cervical cancer prevention: the saga goes on, but so much has changed! MJA 2006; 195(9): 476-7
  9. NCIRS (National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance of Vaccine Preventable Diseases. Human Papillomavirus vaccines for Australians: Information for GPs and Immunisation providers. September 2006