Cervical Screening Test – Self-collected sampling

A Cervical Screening Test (CST) is a simple test used to check the health of your cervix. The CST looks for human papillomavirus (HPV) infection as HPV infections can cause abnormal cervical cell changes that may lead to cervical cancer. This usually takes a long time, about 10 to 15 years. Nearly all cervical cancers are caused by HPV. If you have had the HPV vaccine you will still need to participate in regular cervical screening. This is because the vaccine does not protect against all types of HPV that are known to cause cervical cancer.

In Australia women are advised to have a CST every 5 years.

From 1 July 2022, the National Cervical Screening Program (NCSP) has expanded screening test options, offering self-collection as a choice to all women participating in cervical screening. This means that all people with a cervix aged 25-74 years will have the option to screen using either a self-collected vaginal sample or a cervical smear sample taken by your doctor.

The NCSP are promoting these changes with the aim to maximise cervical screening participation, particularly among under-screened and never-screened women.

Key messages:

  • Self-collection for cervical screening will be available from 1 July 2022 for all NCSP participants aged 25-74 years.
  • Self-collection provides you with a level of control and choice, and may remove a significant barrier for some to participation in screening.
  • The Department of Health advises recent evidence demonstrates a Cervical Screening Test using a self-collected vaginal sample is as accurate as a clinician-collected sample taken from the cervix during a speculum examination.
  • Your GP plays a central and critical role in the NCSP, in assessing your risk and using clinical judgement to recommend testing and follow-up. So make an appointment with your doctor, whether a sample is self-collected by you or the doctor during the consultation.

For an easy guide on how to collect your own vaginal sample for cervical screening see here.