This week, Health Minister, The Hon Greg Hunt MP, announced Australia will become one of the first countries in the world to offer the “game-changing” self-collect cervical cancer screening test, through the National Cervical Screening Program.
From July 1, 2022, all eligible women will be given the option to collect their own sample for their cervical screening test, instead of having a traditional test completed by a clinician, giving women more choice and control.
“By giving women the choice of how their screening is done, we are making the process easier, more comfortable and less invasive,” said Minister Hunt.
This announcement coincides with the Australian Cervical Cancer Foundation (ACCF)’s Cervical Cancer Awareness Week, which aims to raise awareness of cervical cancer, particularly the importance of cervical cancer screening.
The theme this year is ‘Time to Catch Up’, with ACCF urging all women aged 25 to 74 years to stay up to date with their cervical screening.
Due to COVID lockdowns and the general uncertainty surrounding healthcare accessibility created by the pandemic, women have fallen behind on their check-ups.
ACCF is working with the World Health Organisation (WHO) to raise funds and improve education and awareness of cervical cancer, aiming to eliminate the disease by 2030.
Cancer Australia estimates there will be over 900 new cases of cervical cancer diagnosed in Australia this year and over 200 deaths from the disease.
The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination and the Papanicolaou test (commonly referred to as a pap smear or pap test) have increased the five-year survival rate of those diagnosed with cervical cancer, and reduced mortality rates of this disease in Australia to one of the lowest in the world.
However, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are four times more likely to die from cervical cancer compared to other Australian women.
Self-collection is expected to improve the cervical screening participation rate among all women as the process is to become more comfortable and less invasive.
This screening option is considered just as effective and safe as tradition screening methods, like the Pap smear test performed by a GP.
Self-collection tests will be accessible through healthcare providers, including GPs, to ensure that medical experts are playing a critical role in supporting women through the process.
To learn how you can get involved this Cervical Cancer Awareness Week, head to the ACCF website at https://accf.org.au/.