A new Australian Government initiative is aiming to make cervical screening easier for millions of people and ultimately save lives.
From 1 July 2022, eligible Australians will have access to a quick, painless, totally private self-collected cervical screening test through their chosen healthcare provider.
Family Planning Victoria Medical Director Dr Kathleen McNamee said that the change was a positive step for sexual healthcare and anyone with a cervix.
“This new healthcare technology will encourage and support eligible Australians from all walks of life to access the test; this includes those who may face barriers to traditional screening due to cultural practices, concerns about discomfort or pain, or members of the LGBTIQA+ community,” said Dr McNamee.
“The tests are simple to do and are just as effective as the current test at detecting potentially worrying strains of human papillomavirus (HPV).”
HPV is the most common viral infection of the reproductive tract, and most sexually active people will be infected at some point in their lives.
Although some strains may cause warts or cancer, most types of HPV are harmless, cause no symptoms, and go away without treatment.
“Unlike the current tests, the self-collect test can be done by a patient in private using a swab without the need to use speculum,” said Dr McNamee.
“We often hear clients say that they feel anxious or embarrassed about the traditional screening process, and that this causes delays in them making an appointment to get it done.
“We hope that this new way of screening will provide those that need to get tested with the confidence to do so.”
A cervical screening test is recommended every five years for everyone aged 25 to 74 years who has a cervix.
Sexual health organisations such as Family Planning Victoria provide dedicated training to healthcare workers to ensure they can provide exceptional support and care for people who need further investigation or treatment after a screening test.
Dr McNamee said that the new self-collect testing will be available at no charge for people with a Medicare card.