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Self-collection is now available for everyone eligible for a Cervical Screening Test

Did you know that you can now take your own cervical screening sample? The test is quick, easy, private and reliable.  Anyone who is eligible for cervical screening can choose the self-collection option for their next Cervical Screening Test.

With the self-collection option you can take your own vaginal sample with a swab and without a speculum. The self-collection test sample is used to look for human papillomavirus (HPV) – finding HPV early is your best protection against cervical cancer. 

A self-collected Cervical Screening Test is just as accurate at detecting HPV as a Cervical Screening Test taken by your doctor or specially-trained nurse.

This test is done at the doctor’s or other health setting, usually in private behind a screen or in the bathroom.  It is quick, easy, private and reliable.

Find a GP or Nurse Cervical Screening Provider near you

You have a choice for your next Cervical Screening Test

  Self-collected sample Clinician-collected sample
 Tool used

Self-collection swab and tube

Self-collection swab

Speculum

Speculum and brush

Who collects the test sample?

You do it yourself. 

A doctor or nurse cervical screening provider can take the test for you if you want.  

A doctor or nurse cervical screening provider. 
Where is the sample taken from?

The vagina.

The cervix. 

What does it look for?

The presence of HPV. 

The presence of HPV. 

Where is the test usually done?

In a private space within a healthcare setting (e.g. behind a curtain or screen or in the bathroom).

In some cases your doctor may be able to support you doing the test at home.   

On an examination bed in a doctor’s office.
Is it accurate in detecting HPV?  Yes Yes
How often do I need to do this?* Every 5 years Every 5 years
What happens if HPV is detected in the sample?

You will need to have a clinician-collected Cervical Screening Test to look at cells in the cervix. 

You may be required to have follow-up monitoring or be referred for further testing (e.g. a colposcopy). 

The same sample can be used to look at the cells in your cervix.  

You may be required to have follow-up monitoring or be referred for further testing (e.g. a colposcopy). 

What is the likelihood that HPV will be detected in my Cervical Screening Test sample (either self-collected or clinician collected)? 

On average, about one in 10 people will have HPV detected in their Cervical Screening Test sample.  

Younger people (25-30 years old) are more likely to have HPV detected. The older you are the less likely you are to have HPV detected.  

 

* A Cervical Screening Test usually only needs to be done every five years. However, some people may require more frequent tests depending on your individual circumstances as recommended by your doctor.  

How to do the test in 4 simple steps

Step 1

  • Wash your hands
  • Twist the cap off the tube and pull out the swab
  • Look at the swab and note the mark closest to the tip

Step 2

  • Get in a comfortable position
  • Insert the swab into your vagina, aiming to insert to the mark
Tip: It may be easier to use your other hand to hold the outer skin at the entrance of your vagina

Step 3

  • Rotate the swab gently 2-3 times, for about 10 seconds
  • It should not hurt

Step 4

  • Remove the swab and place back in the tube
  • Return the tube to your doctor or nurse

 

You can download our wallet card Self-collection is now an option for cervical screening

Have some questions about self-collection? Here are some FAQs

 

What is self-collection?

Self-collection is when a woman or person with a cervix takes their own vaginal sample using a swab. This test is done privately at the doctor’s or other health setting and is usually done behind a screen or in the bathroom. It is quick, easy, private and reliable and gives you more control over the process.

Am I eligible for a self-collected Cervical Screening Test?

From 1 July 2022, everyone with a cervix aged 25-74 years who is eligible for a Cervical Screening Test will have the option to screen using either a self-collected vaginal sample or a clinician collected test which collects a sample from the cervix.

Can I choose how I want to have my Cervical Screening Test?

Yes, as of 1 July 2022, you will have two options for how you have your Cervical Screening Test. You can pick what’s right for you. All methods are just as safe and effective at detecting HPV.

You can use a self-collection swab to collect a sample of cells from your vagina. Your doctor or nurse will give you a private space for you to collect your own test sample. They can explain how to do the test and help you if you need it.

Your doctor or specially trained nurse can do a Cervical Screening Test for you using a speculum and a small brush to take a sample of cells from your cervix.

How do I arrange to do a self-collected test?

Speak to your GP or Nurse Cervical Screening Provider. They will be able to provide you with the test and instructions on how to do it. This test is usually done at the doctor’s clinic or other health setting, usually behind a screen or in the bathroom. You can find a Cervical Screening Test provider using our Cervical Screening directory. You can also call Cancer Council Victoria’s support line on 13 11 20 to speak to one of our cancer nurses.

How do I do the test?

Self-collection requires gently putting a swab in your vagina and gently rotating the swab around 2-3 times for about 10 seconds to collect a test sample. The aim of the test is to collect a sample of cells from the vagina to see if HPV is detected. These instructions show you how to do the test.

How do I know if I'm doing it correctly?

Your doctor or nurse will give you instructions on how to collect the sample and offer you a private place to collect your sample, usually behind a screen or in a bathroom. If you have any concerns about how to do the test speak to your GP or nurse. They will be able to provide reassurance and further instructions on how to do the test.

How far should I insert the swab?

Kits have a mark on the swab to help guide you on how far to insert it into the vagina. Your doctor or nurse can talk you through how to do the test and provide you with some instructions. These pictures show you how far to insert the swab into your vagina and how to do the test.

Should the swab touch the sides of the vagina?

Yes. The self-collected Cervical Screening Test collects cells from the inside walls of your vagina. It shouldn’t hurt but you should be able to feel the swab touching the inside walls of the vagina as you gently rotate the swab around 2-3 times for about 10 seconds to collect a test sample. If you have any concerns about how to do the test speak to your GP or nurse. They will be able to provide reassurance and further instructions on how to do the test.

How do I keep the swab uncontaminated?

There’s no need to wear gloves to take your own test but it’s a good idea to wash your hands with soap before and after you’ve done the test. After taking the sample, place the swab back into the tube given to you by your doctor or nurse to prevent contamination. If you have any concerns about how to do the test speak to your GP or nurse. They will be able to provide reassurance and further instructions on how to do the test.

Can I do the 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 under the guidance of telehealth.

Speak to your GP or Nurse Cervical Screening Provider to find out more about this option. They will be able to provide you with the test and instructions on how to do it.

How is this different to a traditional Cervical Screening Test?

A traditional Cervical Screening Test is taken by a doctor or Nurse Cervical Screening Provider. When a doctor or nurse does the test they are collecting a sample of cells from your cervix. If the test is clinician collected, you will require a speculum examination for the test.

If you take your own sample via self-collection, you are collecting cells from your vagina.

HPV can be found just as well in cells from your cervix and cells from your vagina. Self-collection is just as safe, effective and accurate at detecting HPV as a Cervical Screening Test taken by your doctor or specially-trained nurse with a speculum.

What happens if my results are positive for HPV?

A small proportion of people will test positive for HPV on their self-collection swab. If you test positive for HPV it does not necessarily mean you have cervical cancer, but it does mean you need to have follow up care. Your doctor can explain the next steps and arrange appropriate follow up tests, such as a clinician-collected Cervical Screening Test or a colposcopy.  

What happens if my results are negative for HPV?

If your self-collected test results do not detect the presence of HPV, you will need to screen again in five years – either with a self-collected test or a clinician-collected Cervical Screening Test. 

Remember, if you experience any symptoms between tests, such as abnormal bleeding, see your doctor without delay, even if your last Cervical Screening Test was normal.

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