One night to walk 21km for cancer – 4 December | Last chance!

Self-collection FAQs

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

If you think you might be eligible for self-collection speak to your GP or screening provider. They will be able to provide you with the test and instructions on how to do it. This test is done at the doctor’s or other health setting, usually behind a screen or in the bathroom. Once you’re done, give the swab to your GP or Nurse Cervical Screening Provider to send off to the lab for testing.

Can I do the test at home?

This test is done at the doctor’s or other health setting, usually behind a screen or in the bathroom. If you think you might be eligible for self-collection speak to your GP or screening provider. They will be able to provide you with the test and instructions on how to do it.

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

You will be given instructions on how to collect the sample and offered a private place to collect your sample, usually behind a screen or in a bathroom at the doctor’s or other healthcare setting. 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 deep should I insert the swab?

Your GP or Nurse Cervical Screening Provider can talk you through how to do the test and provide you with some instructions. There is a red line on the swab to help guide you on how far to insert it into the vagina.

Should it touch the sides of the vagina?

The test collects cells from your vagina. It shouldn’t hurt but you should be able to feel it, similar to inserting a tampon. If you rotate the swab 1 to 3 times you’ll be able to collect a sample from your vagina to send off to the lab for testing. 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 GP or Nurse Cervical Screening Provider 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.

How is this different to a traditional Cervical Screening Test?

Self-collection involves taking your own vaginal sample with a swab and without a speculum. This test is done at the doctor’s or other health setting, usually behind a screen or in the bathroom. It's painless, easy and just as reliable at detecting high-risk types of HPV as a Cervical Screening Test taken by a doctor or nurse.

When a GP takes a sample for cervical screening, they are collecting a sample of cells from your cervix. If you take your own sample via self-collection, you are collecting cells from your vagina. HPV can be found just as well in both cells from your cervix and cells from your vagina. If  HPV is found on a self-collected sample you will need to go back to your GP to have a sample of cervical cells collected, which are then sent to the lab to see if there are any abnormal changes to your cervix.  

What happens if my results are positive for HPV?

If your self-collected test result comes back positive, this means that HPV has been detected and further testing is required. You will need to undergo a practitioner-collected Cervical Screening Test so that cervical cells can be collected and sent to a lab. This is just like a traditional Cervical Screening Test and a speculum examination is required. Speak with your doctor or Nurse Cervical Screening Provider about this test.

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 practitioner-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.

When will self-collection be available for all women and people with a cervix?

In May 2021 the Medical Services Advisory Committee recommended the use of self-collection for all eligible Australian women and people with a cervix. Following this recommendation, the Australian Government announced in November 2021 that all people eligible for a Cervical Screening Test will be able to collect their own sample from 1 July 2022.  

It’s important to raise awareness now for those women and people with a cervix who are eligible for self-collection today in order to provide some important new information for those who may have put off cervical screening.  If you think you may be eligible for self-collection speak to your GP or Nurse Cervical Screening Provider today.      

Talking bubbles icon

Questions about cancer?

Call or email our experienced cancer nurses for information and support.

Contact a cancer nurse