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Self-collection is now an option for cervical screening

Anyone who is eligible for a Cervical Screening Test can now choose between self-collection or having a sample collected by a healthcare provider.

  • A self-collection test uses a long-handled cotton bud to collect your own sample from the vagina. You can take this test in private at the GP clinic or at home. When you book your appointment for cervical screening, ask if self-collection is available at your clinic.
  • A sample collected by a GP or nurse involves inserting a speculum to collect cells from the cervix.

Both options are equally safe and effective. Talk to your GP, nurse or Aboriginal Health Worker about which option is right for you.

How to do the self-collection test in four simple steps:

Step one of cervical screening self collection

  • Twist the red cap and pull out the swab.
  • Look at the swab and note the red mark closest to the tip.

Cancer Council SA Cervical screening self collection step2. Insert the swab

  • Get in a comfortable position.
  • Insert the swab into your vagina, aiming to insert to the red mark.

Cancer Council SA Cervical screening self collection step3. Rotate swab

  • Rotate the swab gently one to three times.

 

Cancer Council SA Cervical screening self collection step4. Remove swab and place in tube. Send to your GP

  • Remove the swab and place back in the tube.
  • Return it to your GP, nurse or health worker.
  • Contact the clinic for your results in two weeks.

Cervical screening explained – watch our short video

For more information, download the free self-collection wallet card

Self-collection is now an option for cervical screening wallet card

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Arabic - Self-collection screening card

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Chinese Simplified - Self-collection screening card

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Dari - Self-collection screening card

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Khmer - Self-collection screening card

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Nepali - Self-collection screening card

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Thai - Self-collection screening card

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Vietnamese - Self-collection screening card

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Questions about cervical screening tests

What is a Cervical Screening Test?

A Cervical Screening Test involves taking a swab of the cervix or vagina to look for signs of HPV. Most cases of HPV clear up on their own and do not require treatment. However, if some types of HPV remain in the body for a long time, they can cause changes to your cells. Doing a cervical screening test every five years from the age of 25 means the GP or nurse can monitor or investigate HPV if needed.

It is recommended that women and people with a cervix have a Cervical Screening Test every five years.

Where can I access self-collection?

You can access self-collection anywhere that you would normally have a Cervical Screening Test, such as a GP clinic or women’s health clinic. When making your appointment, is recommended that you ask if the self-collection option is available at the clinic.

Some people may not be eligible for self-collection, such as those with a previous history of an abnormal test results, or people who are experiencing symptoms. Speak with your GP, nurse or Aboriginal Health Worker to confirm if self-collection is right for you.


Self-collection information for healthcare professionals

From 1 July 2022, the National Cervical Screening Program (NCSP) will expand screening test options, offering self-collection as a choice to all people participating in cervical screening.

The change means from 1 July 2022 all NCSP participants aged 25-74 years old will have the choice to screen using either a self-collected vaginal sample or a clinician collected sample from the cervix, accessed through a healthcare professional in both cases.

New evidence shows that screening using a self-collected vaginal sample has equivalent sensitivity when compared to a clinician collected cervical sample. A summary of the evidence of the sensitivity of self-collection can be found in the National Cervical Screening Program Clinical Guidelines.

Healthcare professionals continue to play an important role in the National Cervical Screening Program through assessing patient risk and using clinical judgement to recommend testing and follow-up. They are also best placed to talk with their patients about cervical screening to determine the best option of testing for their patients.

A consultation for cervical screening will still need to be offered whether it be for a self-collected vaginal sample or a clinician-collected sample. If self-collection is chosen, healthcare professionals will need to explain how to collect a self-collected sample from the vagina.

Further information about offering self-collection, including eligibility and management of screen-detected abnormalities, can be found in the National Cervical Screening Program Clinical Guidelines.

To guide patients on how to take a self-collected sample from the vagina, you can download or order free hard copies of the Cancer Council SA self-collection postcard.

 

Self-collection is now an option for cervical screening wallet card

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Self-collection fact sheet for Health Professionals

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Pathology providers that process self-collected samples

South Australian clinics have the choice between two pathology providers that are currently accredited to process self-collected samples:

We recommend you call your chosen provider ahead of offering self-collection, to order a stock of the swabs (red topped flock swab Copan FLOQswab 552C) and patient education materials, and to clarify sample transport/postage options.

Clinpath Pathology:

  • phone client services: 08 8366 2000

VCS Pathology

  • phone the clinical advisory service: 03 9250 0309
  • samples can be posted via a free postage-paid service, and samples will be valid for 28 days after the sample is taken
  • web resources.

More information and professional development

Further information about offering self-collection can be found via the SA Health website.

Free, accredited professional development in self-collection is available for healthcare providers.
Cervical Screening, HPV and Self-Collection: Clinical Education Course

Further information about offering self-collection, including eligibility and management of screen-detected abnormalities, can be found in the National Cervical Screening Program Clinical Guidelines.

More information:

National Cervical Screening Program—additional resources, including HPV and cervical cancer, and resources in other languages

HPV vaccine—Cancer Council Australia resource

National HPV Vaccination Program—who is eligible and how to get the vaccine

Cervical screening—what this means for you

Diethylstilbestrol (DES) and Cancer—DES was taken by some women between the 1950s and 1970s to try and prevent miscarriage and other pregnancy complications.  Although the majority of persons exposed to DES, during pregnancy or in utero, will not experience any negative health effects, available research findings indicate that exposure to DES increases the risk of some health problems including some cancers.


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This webpage was last reviewed and updated in June 2022.