Cervical cancer and screening

Cervical cancer is the growth of abnormal cells in the lining of the cervix. If detected early, cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers in Australia.  There may be no symptoms of signs of having cervical cancer, highlighting the need for regular cervical screening.

Symptoms of cervical cancer include:

  • vaginal bleeding between periods
  • menstrual bleeding that is longer or heavier than usual
  • bleeding after intercourse
  • pain during intercourse
  • unusual vaginal discharge
  • vaginal bleeding after menopause
  • leg pain or swelling
  • low back pain.

These symptoms are often caused by other conditions. However if you are worried or symptoms persist, see your doctor.

In December 2017, the two-yearly Pap test was replaced by the Cervical Screening Test.

This change means that women aged 25 to 74-years-old are now invited to undertake the Cervical Screening Test every five years.

Women aged between 18 and 25-years-old do not need to start screening until they turn 25, or two years after the last Pap test if it was done at the age of 23 or over.

The Cervical Screening Test is expected to protect up to 30% more Australian women from cervical cancer.

While the Pap test focused on cervical cell changes, the Cervical Screening Test detects the presence of human papillomavirus (HPV), a common infection that can cause cervical cell changes.


The HPV vaccine, Gardasil 9, has been developed to protect against nine HPV types which cause around 90% of cervical cancers in women (and the majority of other HPV-related cancers in women), 95% of all HPV-related cancers in men and 90% of genital warts.

Women of any age who have symptoms, such as bleeding, discharge or pain during sex, should not wait but see a health care provider as soon as possible.

For more information about the National Cervical Screening Program call 13 15 56 or visit the National Cervical Screening Program website.