In a major update to the National Cervical Screening Program, the self-collection method aims to revolutionize the way women respond to cervical cancer testing.
This makes Australia the first country to offer self-testing tampons to women for their screening.
Since its introduction in 1991, the national program has helped halve the incidence of cervical cancer.
However, cervical cancer rates in Australia have not changed much in recent years.
Now you can self-test for cervical cancer
In 2017, the human papillomavirus (HPV) test replaced the Pap smear.
Both tests look and work the same: an instrument called a speculum is inserted into the vagina.
Ask any woman who has been tested and she can tell you that the experience was uncomfortable, unpleasant, or embarrassing.
Do a self-test.
Instead of having a healthcare professional do the test, all women eligible for a cervical screening test can now collect their own sample.
How does self-check work?
If you decide to self-test, all you need to do is visit your GP, who will provide you with a test kit.
After receiving instructions from your doctor, you will be shown to a private area in the medical practice.
there, you can take a smear yourself, without the presence of a doctor.
Health expert Liz Hamm says the procedure is much less invasive than an HPV test.
“You’ll be given a tampon that you put in your vagina. You just twist it a few times to collect the cells inside the vagina,” she said.
“Then you take it out and give it back to your doctor.”
Can I take the test at home?
Ms. Hamm says you can’t take the test at home. However, you will still take it privately in a medical practice.
Completing the test in a medical practice rather than at home allows you to get referrals from your GP if needed.
It also removes barriers such as forgetting to take a test or having to remember to post it.
Who is eligible?
Self-collection may be an option if:
- You are between 25 and 74 years old
- You have never had a cervical screening or pap smear
- You are at least two years overdue for a cervical screening or your last Pap test was at least four years ago
What is cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that develops in a woman’s cervix – the entrance to the womb from the vagina.
This happens when there are changes in some of the cells that line the cervix.
Sometimes these abnormal cells grow and multiply and can develop into cancer.
Why is screening important?
According to Healthdirect, cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers.
Most cervical cancers occur in women who have never been screened or are not screened regularly.
At the heart of self-testing is the goal of increasing participation in screening, particularly among groups that may be under-screened.
Jean Hales for Women’s Health says these groups include:
- Women in rural and remote areas
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women
- Culturally and linguistically diverse groups
- Women who are socially and economically disadvantaged
- Victims of sexual trauma and violence
Australia on track to eliminate cervical cancer by 2028
Cancer Council NSW research shows Australia is on track to become the first country in the world to eliminate cervical cancer as a public health problem.
Ms Hamm says Australia is on track to eliminate cancer by 2028 at current vaccination and screening levels.
“Globally, we’re looking at 2035,” she said.