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Cervical Screening

Improving Access

Self-collection for the Cervical Screening Test

From the 1 July 2022, women and people with a cervix aged 25 – 74 will have two options when they book in for a Cervical Screening Test which looks for Human Papillomavirus (HPV).

Option 1. Your healthcare worker collects your sample from the cervix using a speculum.
Option 2. The newest option is a self-collected sample meaning that you can collect your own vaginal sample using a simple swab.

Self-collection (option 2) is just as effective and must be ordered and overseen by a nurse or doctor. Self-collection should improve access for many groups who currently don’t feel comfortable with the current process. This could include survivors of sexual abuse, transmen with cervixes and other people who have been under-screened due to cultural and/or religious reasons. Cervical screening self-collection | Cancer Institute NSW provides more information about self-collection.

More about Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

In December 2017 cervical screening (which looks for HPV) replaced the Pap smear (which identified cell changes) as the screening method to prevent cervical cancer in Australia. HPV is a common virus passed through sexual or skin to skin contact.

Even if you have been vaccinated for HPV you still need to be screened as the vaccination only works for some strains of HPV.
If HPV is detected, depending on the type of HPV, you will either need to return to have a sample of cells taken from your cervix by your doctor or nurse, or you will be referred to a specialist for further tests or treatment.

Who is eligible?

You are eligible for a Cervical Screening Test every 5 years if you:

  • have ever been sexually active
  • are aged between 25 years and 74 years
  • are a woman/ person with a cervix.

Women with HIV have a higher risk of developing cervical cancer and are recommended to have this Cervical Screening Test (Pap smear replacement) every 3 years.  Women with a new diagnosis of HIV should have a review of their cervical screening history to ensure they are up to date with screening in line with the 3-yearly interval for this group.

Screening in immune-deficient women | Cancer Council provides more information about HPV screening for women with HIV.