The cervical screening test only takes a few minutes, and you only need to get it done every 5 years if the results are satisfactory and there’s no sign of HPV.
Even though it doesn’t happen often, it may still feel unnerving and uncomfortable to have one. You’ve got your reasons.
If you’re aged 25 or over (this is when you should start having one), the payoff is worth it. This test screens for HPV infection that can cause almost all cervical cancers.Don't forget about the HPV vaccine. Having it will maximise your protection against cervical cancer. This vaccine is recommended for those aged 9 to 25 years.
Here are different ways to help you to feel more comfortable at your next cervical screening test.
Before the test
- Find a doctor or nurse that you can trust. Ask family and friends for recommendations. Use the Service Finder to find a healthcare professional near you.
- Book a doctor or nurse who speaks your language, so you understand everything that is said during the test. If this isn’t practical, request an interpreter. Call the Translating and Interpreting Services (TIS) on 13 14 50.
- Learn what happens during the test.
- You can have a cervical screening test at any time during your cycle. If you feel more comfortable having one when you’re not bleeding, schedule the appointment when it suits you.
- Wear loose clothing to make it easier to take the bottom half of your clothing off or to pull up your dress.
- To help you relax, bring something with you to read or listen to beforehand.
- Plan how you’re going to get there. Leave plenty of time to get to the appointment to help reduce stress in the lead up.
- Before the test begins, ask your doctor or nurse what happens during the process. If you only want to hear the basics, let them know.
- Avoid having a full bladder and go to the toilet before the test.
During the test
- Bring a support person with you — they may be a trusted friend or family member. They can act as your spokesperson during the process if you don’t feel comfortable speaking with the nurse or doctor.
- Create a safe word that you can use during the test if you don’t feel OK and want the healthcare professional to stop the test.
- If you’ve had a bad experience with a cervical screening test or prefer certain language not to be used, let the healthcare professional know.
- Change your position to help you feel more comfortable and less vulnerable, such as sitting up. Talk to the doctor or nurse about what works for both of you.
- Ask the doctor or nurse if you can insert the speculum. If they allow this, they will complete the test once the speculum is in the correct position.
- Take the sample yourself, which is called self-collection.
After the test
- Have something relaxing or nice to do after the test that you can look forward to.
For more information and support
- Go to canwe.org.au for LGBTQ community support from ACON.
- Visit health.gov.au for translated information on the cervical screening test.
- Visit cancer.org.au for more translated information.
- Head to health.gov.au for resources in Indigenous languages.
- Check out the Australian Cervical Cancer Foundation’s comfort checklist for a positive experience at your next screening.
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