Yes, it's this easy
Prevention is in your hands
If you are eligible and decide collecting your own sample is the best option for you, your healthcare provider will give you a swab and instructions on how to collect your sample.
A self-collected sample is taken from the vagina (not the cervix). All you need to do is insert a swab a few centimetres into your vagina and rotate it for 20 to 30 seconds.
The sample can be taken in a private place within a healthcare clinic.
View the detailed instructions.
There are just a few steps to collect your own cervical screening test sample
Collecting your own sample is safe and accurate
Your healthcare provider will explain how to take your own sample and you can ask them for help and advice anytime
They can give you advice without looking and if you make a mistake that's okay you can ask to start again
Have a look at the self collection swap it might not look exactly like this one but you should see one end that you can hold and another end for taking the sample
Don't open it just yet
When you've been given a private space to do the test find a comfortable spot and pull down or take off your underwear
Twist the cap and remove the swab from the packaging
Be careful to only hold it by the cap and don't put it down on anything
If you accidentally drop it or the swab touches something you can ask for another one
The swab has a line or a mark to show you how far to insert it
Gently insert the swab into your vagina a few centimeters up to the line
Rotate it gently for 10 to 30 seconds this might be a bit uncomfortable but it shouldn't hurt
Remove the swab replace it in the packaging and seal the whole thing up and that's it.
Get dressed and then return the self-collection swab to your healthcare provider
You can talk to them about what happens next and how you'll get your results
Cara, 36, self-collected her own Cervical Screening Test sample
Cara, aged 36, attended her GP for a routine appointment. During that appointment, her doctor talked to her about cervical screening and, after explaining the purpose and importance of regular screening, asked Cara whether she would be comfortable using the self-collection method to take a sample.
‘I didn’t even realise it was an option to do it myself, until my doctor offered it as a choice. He explained the process to me in a really clear, no fuss way. This made me feel really confident to self-collect’. Cara’s doctor provided her with clear instructions and gave her a private space to take her own sample. ‘I was able to use a private space and lock the door, and didn’t feel rushed at all. I really appreciated how comfortable I was made to feel. It was actually quite empowering.’
The self-collection process was quick and easy for Cara.
‘Because my doctor was so reassuring about my ability to self-collect, and the quality of the results that will come back, I found the whole experience really positive. I will definitely choose to self-collect again.’
Yes, it’s safe
Recent evidence shows a Cervical Screening Test using a self-collected sample from your vagina is just as safe and as accurate at detecting HPV as a clinician-collected sample taken from the cervix during a speculum examination.
However, because self-collection looks for HPV only – not cervical cell abnormalities – it is generally not appropriate for people who have symptoms of cervical cancer or if you are experiencing unusual bleeding, pain or discharge.
Who is eligible?
You should get a Cervical Screening Test every five years if you:
- are aged between 25 and 74
- have had any type of sexual contact (with any person, even of the same gender)
- are a woman / person with a cervix.
You should get a test even if you:
- have had the HPV vaccines
- are not currently sexually active
- have had the same partner for a long time or only had one partner
- are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender
- are pregnant
- have been through menopause
- feel healthy and have no symptoms.
Cervical screening could save your life
About 800 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in Australia each year, and about 80% of these cases occur in women who have never screened or were not up-to-date with their screening.
Having regular screening tests is the best way to protect yourself.
If someone you love is eligible and has never screened or hasn’t screened for some time, encourage them to do their cervical screening.
How to book
Cervical screening – including self-collection – is facilitated by a doctor, nurse or health worker with a rebate provided through Medicare.
Contact your GP or healthcare provider to check if you're due or overdue for a Cervical Screening Test. If you’re due, make a booking with them.
If you don’t have a preferred healthcare provider, health direct can help you find a healthcare provider to book your test with.
The National Cancer Screening Register sends invitation and reminder letters to participants who are due for cervical screening and other follow-up tests. You can view and manage your personal information on the Register (including finding out when you are next due for cervical screening) through the Participant Portal. The Participant Portal is available via myGov at my.gov.au – just link your account to the Register. You can also call the Register on 1800 627 701.
Wiradjuri grandmother Marcia talks about taking her own sample
When she arrived for her appointment as her local Aboriginal Medical Clinic, a nurse showed her behind a screen, and Marcia took it from there. ‘After I made the choice, the only thing that worried me was that I wouldn’t do it properly,’ she recalls. ‘But the instructions were very clear and easy to follow, so that made me feel better about it.
‘I’d say it was much quicker and more comfortable than doing the old Pap test, and I liked that I could do it in private.’
Marcia wants others to know how important it is to do the test, for yourself and your family.
‘I’m glad I’ve done the test. It’s really important to me to show my daughters and their babies that we have access to choices that can prevent disease, and we should take them,’ she reflects.
‘My mother’s generation didn’t talk about this stuff much. I want to reverse that trend and be open about women’s health, especially with my daughters. They’re proud that I want to take care of myself and be fit and healthy into the future. And I want to be around to see my grandbabies grow up and be happy and healthy.’
Some FAQs about self-collection
Do I have to do self-collect? Can I still have the doctor collect my sample?
Self-collection is an option. You can choose either self-collection or clinician-collection for your Cervical Screening Test.
You can continue to have your Cervical Screening Test done by your chosen healthcare provider using a speculum examination.
If you think you may have difficulty collecting a vaginal sample by yourself and would prefer a sample be collected without the use of a speculum, you can also ask your healthcare provider to help you do a self-collected Cervical Screening Test.
Why is a doctor still involved in the process if it’s self-collected?
Healthcare providers play a critical role in supporting patients with cervical screening, including for self-collection.
If you choose self-collection you will be given a private space to collect the sample, for example behind a curtain or in a bathroom.
However, having a GP or healthcare provider involved in the process is important to give you the support you need
- in making an informed decision on the best screening option
- to make sure the test is performed correctly
- to explain to you what the results may mean
- to support you in any follow-up appointments you may need and
- to answer any questions you may have.
How do I know I am getting the right spot/my cervix?
The Cervical Screening Test detects HPV before it has the chance to develop into abnormal or cancerous cells. HPV can be detected from inside the vagina, so there is no need to access the cervix in the first instance.
What happens if my self-collected test comes back positive for HPV?
If HPV is found in your self-collected Cervical Screening Test results, your healthcare provider will recommend you return so they can collect a cervical sample to investigate further.
Will self-collection kits be mailed out to everyone?
No. The NCSP is not delivering a home mail-out program at this time. The connection between a primary healthcare provider and a patient is considered essential to providing appropriate care and follow-up for screening participants. This means you still require a consultation with a healthcare provider (for example your GP) to receive the self-collection test.