A Public Cervix Announcement that you’re actually going to love (we promise)
If you have a cervix, this is a time to celebrate.
We know that’s an odd sentence. But this is amazing news.
The Australian Government has just announced that self-collection for cervical screening will be available for everyone from 1 July 2022.
If you’ve ever had a cervical screening test (what used to be called a Pap Smear), you’re likely familiar with the speculum. And, like most people, you are probably not a fan.
When we asked our communities about cervical cancer screening a couple of years ago, a huge number of people said that discomfort, embarrassment and even pain were some of the main reasons LGBTQ+ folks avoided or delayed getting screened. These numbers were even higher among trans people with a cervix.
While some people are ok with the test, for others, it’s a deeply traumatic experience: it’s invasive and uncomfortable and can be deeply triggering.
So what’s self-collection and why are we so excited?
Self-collection involves a vaginal / front hole swab. It looks like a long cotton bud, just like a COVID test (but it does not go in your nostril …).
And you do it yourself.
No speculum. No discomfort. Quick. Easy. Private.
If you’re due for cervical screening, from 1 July 2022, you’ll be offered the choice of self-collection. This means your doctor or nurse will chat to you about your options, then you’ll be given a swab, you’ll head somewhere private (like behind a medical screen or bathroom) and you insert the swab into your vagina / front hole. Your doctor or nurse will explain how to get the best sample – but once you’re done, you put the swab back in its tube and hand it over to be tested.
AND THEN YOU ARE DONE.
We know. It’s very good news.
Offering the choice of self-collection is going to increase our screening rates and is going to help a lot more people access this life-saving test.
This means detecting cervical cancer earlier. And that means saving more lives.
So when will self-collection be available?
Self-collection will be available for everyone eligible for cervical screening on 1 July, 2022 (it’s a Friday. Yes, we looked it up. We are that excited).
For some people, self-collection might be an option already. If you’re 30 or older AND you’ve never had a Cervical Screening Test (or a Pap Test), or it’s been 4 years or more since you had a test. If this sounds like you, talk to your doctor or nurse right now about self-collection.
Hang on, is this safe? Is the test as accurate…?
The speculum and self-collection tests are pretty much the same in terms of picking up the presence of HPV variants that cause 99.7% of cervical cancer.
“Self-collected samples are as safe, effective and as accurate as clinician-collected tests.”
– Greg Hunt, Minister for Health & Ageing
If your test comes back positive for HPV, you’ll be referred for further testing to make sure the virus hasn’t started to affect the cells of your cervix (sometimes referred to as ‘pre-cancerous’ changes).
I’m due for a cervical screening test now…but I want the swab…
Honestly, we know that a lot of people are probably due (or overdue) for their cervical screening test.
Those things we’ve been putting off (and understandably so during lockdowns) need our attention. Our health matters. You matter.
If you’re not eligible for self-collection now, check out our guide to cervical screening – we have some tips and advice that can help you get through it.
When it comes to cervical cancer, early detection is key.
I have questions.
For more information on cervical screening and cancer, head to the cervical screening section of our site. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for updates, and if you have any other questions please reach out: firstname.lastname@example.org
To find out when you’re next due for a cervical screening test, call the National Cancer Screening Register on 1800 627 701.