Bye, bye speculum? New cervical screening options for all!
The day has arrived…
Back in November 2021, Can We was very excited to announce that self-collection for cervical screening would soon be available for everyone.
From 1 July 2022, absolutely everybody attending for a regular Cervical Screening Test (the test previously known as a Pap Smear) will be offered the choice of self-collection.
No more speculums?? Yes, plz and thank you.
Why is this such good news?
So many people find cervical screening tough.
The ‘clinician-collected’ CST (Cervical Screening Test) involves using a speculum to open the vagina / front hole, allowing the clinician to see the cervix, and then they swab the cervix to collect cells for testing.
For some people, it’s not a big deal. Other people have been super brave and gotten through testing, even though they find it difficult (you deserve so many hugs for taking care of you).
Some people may have found an amazing clinician who listen and understand their needs – there are some incredible doctors out there who understand our communities, are sensitive and collaborative and who can make tests like these so much easier.
But for lots of people, the speculum is just not a good option. They might find it so uncomfortable, scary or triggering that even the thought of booking an appointment is unbearable. And that’s completely understandable.
Self-collection is a simple swab, taken by you, in the privacy of a bathroom or behind a screen at your doctor’s. And this is very good news, because it means that people who’ve never had a test and people who are overdue for a test now have an option that makes it so, so much easier. More people are going to get tested, because one of the big hurdles has been taken away.
Testing rates going up? That means catching and treating abnormalities much earlier, even before they become cancer. That means saving lives.
How is it done?
If you’re due for regular cervical screening, from 1 July 2022, you’ll be offered the choice of self-collection.
If you’ve ever done a vaginal / front hole swab during STI testing before – you’ll recognise this! It’s pretty much the same process.
This means your doctor or nurse will chat to you about your options, then you’ll be given a swab. It looks kinda like a long cotton bud.
You’ll head somewhere private (like behind a medical screen or bathroom) and insert the swab into your vagina / front hole. Your doctor or nurse will explain how to get the best sample (this usually involves rotating the swab gently). Then you put the swab back in its tube and hand it over to be tested.
And you are done.
If all goes well, you’ll be back in five years for your next one!
Is it safe?
Self-collection has actually been available for some people (those who had never screened or were overdue and who were over 30) since the Pap Smear was replaced by the Cervical Screening Test (CST) in Australia, back in December 2017.
The new CST tests for the presence of HPV – which causes 99.7% of cervical cancers – and research has now shown the self-collected swab is similar in accuracy to the clinician-collected (speculum) test.
In 2021, the Medical Services Advisory Committee (MSAC) noted that there was a “large body of evidence showing no material difference in the diagnostic accuracy of HPV testing between using self-collected and clinician-collected samples.”
They concluded that self-collection is “safe and effective, and that it would likely increase participation in cervical screening.”
If you’re interested, you can check out the research and evidence – and if you have any concerns, talk to your doctor.
The standard CST (clinician-collected, using a speculum) is still available, so it’s entirely up to you. Some people, when they’ve talked to their doctor, might even prefer the clinician-collected sample (it happens!!). It’s your choice which test to get. And if you’re worried, just talk to your doctor.
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: email@example.com
To find out when you’re next due for a cervical screening test, call the National Cancer Screening Register on 1800 627 701.