This is what you need to know about the new cervical cancer screening program, according to Cancer Council Queensland spokesperson Katie Clift.

The two-yearly pap smear test that most women know well (all too well!) – is about to change.

Well, when we say ‘about to’ – we mean from May 2017, thanks to Federal Government funding for a new cervical cancer screening program announced in the May budget.

It was one of the Budget announcements that flew under the radar in light of the proposed changes to paid parental leave and tax cuts for small business – but it’s an important one that will impact our cancer screening schedules, and our overall health.

The new HPV (human papillomavirus) test is set to be undertaken by Queensland women every five years instead of every two. The test will be more effective than the current pap smear, and just as safe.

The new screening program will actually detect HPV before abnormal cell changes occur, helping to prevent cases of cervical cancer and increase survival rates.

This is great news for our sisters, mothers, aunties, and the broader girlhood! Our hope is that the change to the screening program, particularly from two-yearly tests to five-yearly tests, will encourage more eligible women to participate, improving the effectiveness of the population-wide screening program and ensuring that more women detect the disease early and survive into old age.

From May 2017, the new cervical cancer test will be available for all Australian women aged 25 to 74.

So, what do women do in the interim, before May 2017, I hear you ask?

If you’re eligible, it’s vitally important that you continue participating in the current pap smear screening program until the new test becomes available.

In fact, it’s absolutely crucial that all eligible Queensland women prioritise regular pap smears and get screened every two years – regular pap smears remain the only population-wide screening test to detect cervical cancer.

So, update your iCalendar and schedule your two-yearly test in – make it a priority along with other routine health checks (including skin checks, breast screening, and the bowel cancer screening test for women over 50).

And if you’ve never had a pap smear, don’t be shy in talking with your GP about it. It could save your life.