Women opting for self-screening of cervical cancer, new data released


Tuesday, 05 March, 2024

Women opting for self-screening of cervical cancer, new data released

Australia is set to become one of the first countries to eliminate cervical cancer by 2035 following the release of the National Strategy for the Elimination of Cervical Cancer and a $48.2 million investment to support implementation.

Currently, around 800 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in Australia each year, with about 70% of these cases occurring in women who have never screened or were not up to date with their screening.

Having regular screening tests is the best way for protection so the Labor government expanded screening test options in July 2022, offering self-collection as a choice to all women aged between 25 and 74 participating in a Cervical Screening Test. The traditional ‘pap smear’ test is still available to women who prefer this option; however, many have found it uncomfortable and may have avoided cervical cancer screening.

New data released on HPV Awareness Day (4 March) shows more than 315,000 Australian women have self-collected.  27% of all screening tests are now done this way — which was only 1% before the expansion.

The option to self-screen — being more private and discreet — has been particularly positive for people who have never screened or are overdue. In the past year, one in three first-time screeners and 40% of overdue screeners took up the self-collection option.

In the Northern Territory, self-collection is more than double the national average, at 47%, while nationally, older women are setting the pace with 34% of women aged between 70 and 74 opting to self-collect.

Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care Ged Kearney said, “As a former nurse, I understand the importance of providing tailored and accessible healthcare to women. These tests are doing just that — they’re more private, culturally safe and available to women in remote areas.

“The increase in testing rates in the Northern Territory and among First Nations Australians is a big success story. It puts us closer to closing the gap on First Nations testing rates so we can drive down the rate of cervical cancer in these communities.

“This data is a reminder that Australia is on track to be the first country in the world to eliminate cervical cancer.”

The self-collect option is available wherever cervical screening is conducted, including GP clinics, women’s health clinics, Aboriginal health centres and other healthcare providers.

Image credit: iStock.com/pepifoto

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