Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

A self-test is making cervical screening even easier

Blog post | 23 Nov 2021

Women across Australia rejoiced when the 2-yearly Pap smear was replaced by the cervical screening test in late 2017.

For women with normal results, the cervical screening test is needed only every 5 years — and it's more effective than the Pap smear in preventing cervical cancers. The recommended age of the first test was also lifted from 18 (for the Pap smear) to 25 (for the cervical screening test), or 2 years after the last Pap smear.

The good news keeps coming.

Now, a self-collection method, recently added to the National Cervical Screening Program Guidelines, is making the cervical screening test even easier for women.

You will be able to self-test for cervical cancer

While cervical screening tests are generally needed less frequently, many women still find them uncomfortable and embarrassing. Cue the self-test, or ‘self-collection', method.

Instead of a health professional doing the test, all people eligible for a cervical screening test will be able to collect their own sample from 1 July, 2022.

Those who choose to self-collect will be shown to a private area within the medical practice. There, they can take a sample from the vagina using a specially designed swab that looks a bit like a cotton-wool bud. The swab helps detect any of the 14 types of cervical cancers.

The test is simple, quick and safe, and is as accurate as a test performed by the doctor or a trained nurse.

Who is eligible for self-collection right now?

Currently, the cervical self-test is not available to everyone.

Patients who have declined a screening test by their health professional can be offered the self-collection method. You also need to be over 30 years of age, and either never been screened or be 2 years overdue for your test.

About half of Australian women (55%) aged 20-69 participated in cervical screening in 2015-16.—Australian Institute of Health and Welfare

Up to 90% of women who die from cervical cancer, which is preventable, are either not up-to-date with their screening or haven’t participated in screening — despite being eligible.

It's hoped that self-testing is increasing screening participation rates, particularly among groups who may be under-screened.

According to Jean Hailes for Women's Health, these groups include women in rural and remote areas, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, culturally and linguistically diverse groups, women facing social and economic disadvantage, victims of sexual trauma and violence, and busy women who have not prioritised their health.

Ultimately, the self-test may help get Australia closer to eradicating cervical cancer altogether. Especially once it’s rolled out to all women on 1 July, 2022.

For more information about cervical screening

Want more like this?

For health and wellbeing news you can use, go to the healthdirect blog.

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo