Are you one of the 40% of women who are not having a Pap smear every 2 years? Regular Pap smears can detect early changes in the cells of the cervix (neck of the womb) which may lead to cancer if untreated.

All women over 18 who have ever had sex ­(including with other women) need a Pap smear every 2 years until the age of 70, as the risk of cervical cancer increases with age. The first test is done between 18 and 20, or 1-2 years after you first have intercourse, whichever is later.

Some women who have had a hysterectomy still require regular Pap smears. Ask your GP.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the main cause of abnormal Pap smears and cervical cancer and is passed on through sex. The HPV vaccine gives good immunity against HPV from future partners and can be given up to the age of 45.

As the vaccine does not prevent all cervical cancers, it is still important to have regular tests.

What if I have an abnormal result?

Over 90% of Pap smears are normal. Most changes are low grade and simply require a repeat test in 12 months. Usually the changes clear up without treatment.

If more advanced (high grade) changes are found, you may be referred for a colposcopy, an examination of the cervix under magnification.

Abnormal areas can be removed before they develop into cancer by freezing, laser, burning or surgery under local or general anaesthetic.

Cancer is rare in women who have regular tests.

When was your last Pap smear?

Your doctor can advise you when your next Pap smear is due. The Pap smear register also keeps a confidential record of your results and can be contacted on 13 15 56.


  • Please note this information was correct at time of publication.
  • For up to date information, speak to your doctor.
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