Who needs to do cervical screening?
Women and people with a cervix, aged 25-74, who have had sexual contact with a person of any gender, need to do a Cervical Screening Test every five years, to protect against cervical cancer.
You still need to do a Cervical Screening Test if you:
- are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or queer
- are transgender, gender diverse, or non-binary and have a cervix
- are no longer sexually active
- have only ever been sexually active with women
- have had the HPV vaccine
- have only ever had one sexual partner
- have only had non-penetrative sex
- have been through menopause.
What is the self-collection option?
Cervical screening just got easier.
Until recently, there was only one option for most people getting a Cervical Screening Test, which is done by a doctor or specially trained nurse using a speculum and a small brush.
Now you have the option to self-collect your test, using a small swab.
Self-collection is done in a private space at the doctors or another health setting, usually behind a curtain or in the bathroom. Your doctor or nurse will be there to explain the test to you and can help you do the test, if you would prefer.
Self-collection is quick, comfortable, safe and easy to do. It’s also just as accurate at detecting HPV as a Cervical Screening Test taken by your doctor or specially trained nurse.
Which test is right for me?
You have a choice for your next Cervical Screening Test.
You can do the test yourself, in a private space at the doctors or have a doctor or specially trained nurse do the test using a speculum. For both tests you will need to book in to see your doctor or nurse and they can talk you through your options.
Both tests are equally as reliable at detecting HPV (human papillomavirus). Choose what’s right for you.
If you’ve opted for your doctor or nurse to do the test, you will be asked to undress from the waist down and lie on an examination bed with a cover over your lap. Your doctor or nurse will insert a speculum into the vagina/front hole to view your cervix and will collect a sample of cells from your cervix with a small brush.
You can ask to view the equipment prior to the procedure, and you can insert the speculum yourself, if you prefer. Make the test right for you.
If your test comes back negative, you will just need to repeat another Cervical Screening Test in 5 years.
If your clinician collected test comes back positive, the same sample can be tested to look for cervical cell changes. Depending on the result, you may require ongoing monitoring in 12 months or be referred to a specialist for further tests.
For the self-collection test, you will be given a small swab and directed to a private space in the clinic (usually behind a curtain or in the bathroom). In your own time, you can remove the swab from the tube, insert it in your vagina/front hole and rotate the swab 2-3 times for 10 seconds before putting the swab back in the tube and giving it to your doctor or nurse. The swab does not need to touch the cervix.
The self-collected test does not require a physical examination; however, you can have a doctor or nurse take the swab for you if you prefer.
If your test comes back negative, you will just need to repeat another Cervical Screening Test in five years.
If your self-collected test comes back positive, you will need to return to your doctor or specially-trained nurse for them to collect a sample of cells from your cervix using a speculum and small brush. In some cases, you may be directly referred to a specialist for further tests or require ongoing monitoring.
Preparing for your Cervical Screening Test
A Cervical Screening Test is for you and your health. Do what you need to do to make it right for you. Some of the tips below can help.
- Speak to family and friends and see if they can recommend a provider they like going to. Thorne Harbour Health’s Centre Clinic and Equinox Gender Diverse Health Centre are available to provide health care for LGBTIQ+ people in Melbourne.
- You can search for providers that suit a range of needs, including clinics with sexual assault sensitive providers, disability access and providers who speak languages other than English on Cancer Council Victoria’s cervical screening directory.
- Find helpful information on Cancer Council’s Information for LGBTIQ+ people page on what you might need to tell your doctor or nurse on the day.
- If you are interested to try the self-collection test, call your clinic before you go, to make sure they are offering self-collection.
- Remember, you can always book in to speak to your doctor about your options and do the test another day. If you’re not feeling up to it that day you can go home and find another time to do the test when you’re ready.
- If you are nervous about doing the test alone, you can bring someone with you. Your doctor or nurse may also be able to support you to do the test at home or through Telehealth. Speak to them and see if this is available.
How do I do the self-collection test?
Book in to see your doctor or specially-trained nurse to check that they are able to offer the self-collection test. Self-collection requires gently inserting a swab in your vagina/front hole and rotating the swab around 2-3 times for about 10 seconds to collect a test sample. The doctor or nurse will give you detailed instructions before you do the collection.
You can find more instructions, including a step-by-step guide.
What if I don’t do the self-collected test right?
The self-collection test is quick and easy to do. Your doctor or nurse will give you instructions on how to do the test. If you have any concerns, your doctor or nurse will be available to provide reassurance and further instructions on how to do the test.
I want to use the self-collection swab but I’m nervous to do the test myself, can I have a doctor or nurse do it for me?
Yes. If you’re unsure about doing the test yourself, you can ask your doctor or nurse to take the swab for you. It’s up to you.
Is everyone eligible for self-collection?
Self-collection is available as an option for most people eligible for cervical screening. It is not recommended for those who:
- have symptoms of cervical cancer or may be experiencing unusual bleeding, pain or discharge
- are undergoing Test of Cure surveillance or have been treated for a glandular abnormality
- have had a total hysterectomy with past history of high-grade squamous intraepithelial lesion
- were exposed to diethylstilbestrol (DES) in utero.
In these cases, you will need to have a test taken by a doctor or specially trained nurse.
If you notice any changes such as unusual bleeding, discharge or pain you should discuss with your doctor immediately, do not wait for your next Cervical Screening Test.
I’ve only ever had sex with women, do I still need to do the test?
Yes. HPV, the virus that causes most cervical cancers, is spread by genital skin to skin contact. Women and people with a cervix, aged 25-74 who have ever had sexual contact with a person of any gender, need to be doing regular cervical screening. You still need to do the test, even if you’ve had the HPV vaccine.
I’m no longer sexually active, do I still need to do the test?
Yes. A persistent HPV infection usually takes about 10-15 years to cause cell changes that can develop into cervical cancer, so even if you’re no longer sexually active, you still need to participate in cervical screening.
Can I do the self-collection test at home?
In most cases, this test is done at the doctor’s or other health setting, usually behind a screen or in the bathroom. In some cases, your doctor or nurse may be able to support you doing the test at home or under the guidance of telehealth.
Speak to your doctor or specially trained nurse to find out more about your options. They will be able to provide you with the test and instructions on how to do it.
How can I find a provider who is right for me?
Finding a provider that’s right will be different for everyone. Speak to your family and friends and see if they have a provider they can recommend.
Thorne Harbour Health’s Centre Clinic and Equinox Gender Diverse Health Centre provide health care for LGBTIQ+ people in Melbourne. You can also search for providers that suit a range of needs, including clinics with sexual assault sensitive providers, disability access and providers who speak languages other than English on Cancer Council Victoria’s cervical screening directory.
Who can I speak to for more information?
For more information on the campaign, email email@example.com
You can call Cancer Council’s experienced nurses on 13 11 20, for more information about cervical screening and the self-collection test between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday.
Thorne Harbour Health also have trauma informed staff available who can explain the testing procedure, your options and help you prepare.
You can email Thorne Harbour Health to request to make an appointment for testing or ask for some information to help inform your decisions: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note emails to this address will be monitored and responded to Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm.