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Cervical Screening Matters

Cervical Screening Matters

In 2015 whilst visiting my GP for some other unrelated health thing, she asked when my last cervical screening test was. I knew it had been a while because my last one many years earlier had me feeling awkward and uncomfortable after some unprofessional behaviour from the GP who had done it. I remember at the time being left with the feeling like I didn’t particularly want to do it again, and I had left it for a long time.
But now there I was, with my current GP who a friend had recommended to me, who made me feel comfortable, listened to and cared about. I got on the bench and let her do the procedure. It was remarkable the difference in how it made me feel. 
A few days later I had the call saying they had detected some abnormal cells and I needed to have a colposcopy to investigate further. This then resulted in 2 surgeries to remove cancerous cells from my cervix. How lucky I was to have my GP suggest this simple routine test and spot these early changes. This is the reason I have been very keen to support the Get Papped Practitioner Directory, and host it on our Tsuno site. In the absence of a friend being able to refer a great GP in your area, the Directory is a crowd sourced map with recommendations from people all over Australia (and some internationally), with practitioners who have made people feel comfortable during their cervical screening test. 
It is also why I feel really compelled to now help the Victorian Cancer Council help spread the word about Cervical Screening and a new testing method which means if you want to- you can collect the sample for screening yourself, with a swab!
To tell us a little bit more about cervical screening, how it works and why it’s so important, I sat down with Cancer Council Victoria’s Cervical Cancer Elimination Manager, Alice Bastable.

Hi Alice! Firstly, tell us what is a Cervical Screening Test and what does it look for?

A Cervical Screening Test is a very simple test that can effectively protect women and people with a cervix against cervical cancer by looking for the virus that causes almost all cases of cervical cancer, human papillomavirus of HPV. 

HPV is a really common sexually transmitted virus and around 8 in 10 people will have an HPV infection at some point in their lives. Usually, the body will be able to clear it on its own but if the body can’t clear an HPV infection it can cause changes to the cells in your cervix, which if left untreated can become cervical cancer. 

The Cervical Screening Test looks for HPV and can find people at risk of cervical cancer before it develops.

A cervical screening test every five years could save your life

Why is regular screening so important?

Unlike many other cancers, cervical cancer can be prevented and treated if found early through regular screening, which is recommended every five years from the age of 25.

By regularly participating in cervical screening, we can pick up any HPV infections early and treat any abnormal cell changes that it may cause before they can become cancer.

HPV infections can lay dormant for many years as well, which is why it’s important to keep screening even if you are no longer sexually active.


Who should be doing a Cervical Screening Test?

Anyone with a cervix aged 25-74, who has ever been sexually active with a person of any gender should be doing a Cervical Screening Test every five years. You'll receive a letter in the mail from the program when you are due and your doctor might send you a reminder as well.

You still need to do the Cervical Screening Test even if you have had the HPV vaccine and if you don’t have any symptoms. Screening tests are designed to pick up cancer early, sometimes before any symptoms appear, so it’s important that you still do your test even if you feel healthy.


You can now choose to self-collect your cervical screening test

People can now self-collect their own test, how does this work?

In July 2022, the option to self-collect your test became available for everyone eligible for cervical screening. This means that you now have two options available at your next Cervical Screening Test – you can choose to have a doctor or nurse do the test, or you can do it yourself using a small swab. This option is called self-collection.

With self-collection, you still need to go to your healthcare professional to have a consult, but you will then be given a swab and shown a private space, such as behind a curtain or in the bathroom to take the sample yourself. In some cases, you may also be able to take the swab home to do the test and return it to your clinic for testing.

The self-collection test is really easy to do and it doesn’t need to touch your cervix. You just need to collect a sample of cells from your vagina that will then be tested for the presence of HPV. The test is quick, private and just as accurate as a test done by a doctor or nurse.

If you do want to book in for a self-collected test, we’d recommend calling your clinic before you go to make sure that they are offering this option.

And finally, you’ve recently launched a new cervical screening campaign – tell us about that.

We’ve just launched a new campaign called In Your Hands to raise awareness about the importance of regular cervical screening and the option to self-collect your test. You might have seen the campaign already – it launched at the start of March and will be running until late May across Victoria.

Cervical cancer is an almost entirely preventable cancer through regular screening but around one in three Victorians are not participating in this test. This campaign is all about reminding people to go and do their test if they are due and educating them about their testing options, including self-collection.

By getting more people to do their Cervical Screening Test, we can protect more people against a cervical cancer diagnosis and save lives.

For anyone reading this now who thinks they might be due for their Cervical Screening Test, go and book an appointment today. If you have friends or family members that have been putting it off, talk to them about cervical screening and let them know about self-collection. Preventing cervical cancer is in all of our hands.

You can find out more about the campaign and about cervical screening at

You may also find Tsuno's Get Papped Practitioner Directory here on our site!


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