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Thousands of eligible Victorians missing out on opportunity to self-collect for cervical cancer

Thursday 25 November, 2021

With a new survey revealing very low awareness of cervical screening self-collection, Cancer Council Victoria is encouraging eligible Victorians to take their health into their own hands and collect their own sample for cervical cancer.

The survey, conducted by Cancer Council Victoria, found that only 15 per cent of respondents had heard about self-collection as an option to screen for cervical cancer [1].

Launching today, the PR campaign funded by the Victorian Government and in partnership with the Australian Centre for the Prevention of Cervical Cancer aims to raise awareness among eligible women and people with a cervix across Victoria of self-collection as a reliable method for detecting HPV, which causes almost all cervical cancers.

Currently self-collection is available to those women and people with a cervix who are aged over 30; are overdue for a Cervical Screening Test by two years or more or have never been screened; and do not have symptoms, however many of those who are eligible are not aware this option is available to them. With 47% of Victorians overdue for cervical screening, thousands of women and people with a cervix can access self-collection today [2].

The test is done with the individual collecting their own vaginal sample with a swab (similar to the ones used for COVID tests) at the GP clinic or other healthcare setting, usually behind a private screen or in the bathroom.

Screening Program Manager at Cancer Council Victoria, Kate Broun said following the Australian Government’s recent announcement that from 1 July 2022 all Australian women and people with a cervix will be eligible to choose self-collection, she hoped the campaign would provide some important new information for those who may have put off cervical screening.     

“More than 70% of cervical cancers occur in women and people with a cervix who have never screened or who have lapsed in screening [3]. We know that many, particularly from priority communities, face a range of barriers to accessing screening. Self-collection provides an opportunity to address these barriers. For those who have never screened, research shows that taking part in self-collection could reduce the risk of developing cervical cancer by around 40 per cent [4]", Ms Broun said.

“The test is free, easy to do yourself and reliable. We are urging Victorians to take advantage of this opportunity to prevent cervical cancer and protect their future. If you think you could be eligible for self-collection, don’t wait until July next year, speak to your GP or nurse today.”

Despite the option for self-collection being available to under or never screened women and people with a cervix since 2018, uptake in Victoria remains low with only 1067 self-collected tests performed by April 2019 [5].  

Nurse Cervical Screening Provider at the Ballarat and District Aboriginal Co-Operative, Sandy Anderson hopes the campaign will result in more eligible women and people with a cervix taking up the offer of self-collection.

“Our service has been offering self-collection to all patients since it was approved in the renewed cervical screening program and so far, we’ve seen a 98 per cent take up rate amongst our patients. For those who may be reluctant to participate in a doctor or nurse taken Cervical Screening Test this option provides a safe, reliable and comfortable screening alternative that importantly is just as effective at detecting HPV and preventing cervical cancer.”

Executive Director at the Australian Centre for the Prevention of Cervical Cancer Professor Marion Saville said self-collection is a viable alternative for cervical screening.

“Self-collected samples are as accurate as clinician-collected cervical specimens for the detection of pre-cancerous lesions and many adenocarcinomas [6]. In addition, our research in Victoria has shown that self-collection is highly acceptable in a range of disadvantaged groups [7].”

The campaign includes social media as well as engagement with health professionals and works towards achieving the Victorian Government’s target of encouraging an additional 10,000 under-screened women and people with a cervix to screen through the self-collection pathway, as identified in the Victorian Cancer Plan 2020-2024.

For more information about the cervical screening campaign visit cancervic.org.au/selfcollection


  1. Cancer Council Victoria conducted message testing as part of the PR campaign development. An online survey promoted via Facebook included responses from 124 respondents of people aged 30-74.
  2. AIHW, Cancer Screening Programs Data, Cervical Screening Program Monitoring Report 2019.
  3. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2020. National Cervical Screening Program monitoring report 2020. Cancer series 130. Cat. no. CAN 138. Canberra: AIHW.
  4. Smith, M, Lew, J, Simms, K and Canfell, K, Impact of HPV sample self-collection for underscreened women in the renewed Cervical Screening Program   https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.5694/mja15.00912
  5. https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2021/215/8/self-collection-cervical-screening-renewed-national-cervical-screening-program
  6. Arbyn et al 2018, Saville et al 2020
  7. Saville et al 2018