Self-collection is in your hands

Jan 15, 2024

Female gp and female patient 2 WEB RGB

Empower yourself and your patients with self-collection screening this Cervical Cancer Awareness Month.

Australian rates of cervical cancer incidence and mortality are among the lowest in the world – this is largely attributable to the success of the National Cervical Screening Program (NCSP) since its inception. In our region, the rate of cervical cancer screening for women is higher than the Queensland average (see our Women’s health snapshot). A new screening option – self-collection – is putting the power of preventative healthcare into more women’s hands.

Cervical screening tests are straightforward procedures designed to assess the health of the cervix and detect the presence of the human papillomavirus (HPV) – a common infection that causes most cervical cancers.

For clinicians, understanding screening methods and how to interpret their results is crucial for providing the best care to your patients. For patients, it's important to understand your screening options so you are empowered to take proactive, preventative action when it comes to your health.

In line with the National Cervical Cancer Clinical Guidelines, screening is recommended for women or individuals with a cervix, aged between 25 and 74 years, and anyone who has ever been sexually active. Those who have never had any form of sexual contact may not need a screening test. Women who have had a partial or full hysterectomy should be encouraged to consult with their GP or healthcare provider regarding the need for screening.

Eligibility for cervical screening is not impacted by factors such as HPV vaccination history, sexual orientation, current sexual activity status, menopausal status, number of sexual partners, childbirth history or pregnancy status – all eligible individuals should take the opportunity to be screened.

Patients have two options for screening:

  • Healthcare provider collection: A healthcare provider will collect your sample to be sent to a laboratory for testing, and be responsible for communicating your test results.
  • Self-collection: Self-collection actively involves the patient in the screening process. Following guidance provided by the healthcare provider, the patient will collect their own swab sample to be sent for testing. Your healthcare provider will be responsible for communicating your test results.

The National Cancer Screening Register (NCSR) will also receive and hold your cancer screening records and is a good way to keep track of test dates and results. The NCSR can send a letter when you or your patient is due to screen – screening is recommended every 5 years where no HPV is detected.

For more information about cervical cancer and cervical screening tests, you can access:

For more information about establishing cervical cancer self-collection screening as a CQI activity in your practice, please contact our Primary Care team’s Quality Improvement and Reform Lead Alison Leitch via email Alison.Leitch@brisbanenorthphn.org.au.

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