WOMEN in the south-west uncomfortable with a health professional undertaking their cervical cancer screening can now do the test themselves.
From July 1, under the National Cervical Screening Program (NCSP) women either collect the vaginal sample or through a clinician, predominantly a general practitioner.
Australia is the first country in the world to offer self-testing.
Women aged 25 to 74 years encouraged to have a screening every five years.
South West Healthcare head of obstetrics and gynaecology Rosy Buchanan said the new rules meant women aged 30 and over who decline a speculum (vaginal) examination and are at least two years' overdue for screening were eligible to self-test.
"Although the test is a self-collected sample it must be done under the supervision of a health practitioner and is not a take-home test or a mail-out kit," she said.
"What will happen is; you make an appointment with your GP, they provide you with the test kit and show you how to use it, you then go to the bathroom, take the sample and return it to your GP within your appointment."
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Previously, self-collection only applied to women 30 and over who had never participated in the NCSP or were overdue for a cervical screening by two years or more.
Ms Buchanan said self-collection was a great alternative for people hesitant to do a test using a speculum, which could cause some discomfort.
"As health professionals we want to encourage as many women as possible to screen regularly," she said.
"Removing any barriers to this is always welcome.
"We know some aspects of men's and women's health can be daunting or confronting for some people, but health professionals are here to help, not judge."
Ms Buchanan encouraged those who felt uncomfortable about their appointment to let staff know so they could check in with them.
She said the cervical screening was an opportunity to detect and treat pre-cancerous changes and discuss any other health issues 'in an environment where we do our utmost to make them feel as comfortable as possible'.
Not-for-profit Jean Hailes for Women's Health said the new NCSP program introduced in December 2021, (cervical screening test (CST), which replaced the Pap smear) was expected to lower the incidence of cervical cancer and mortality by at least 30 per cent in Australia.
"We hope by encouraging easier and less daunting methods of screening we will encourage more women to come forward," Ms Buchanan said.
Ms Buchanan said in 2022, about 930 women would be diagnosed with cervical cancer in Australia alone, and 258 would die from it.
"About 80 per cent of these women will be from the under-screened or never-screened cohort," she said.
Ms Buchanan said the screening was also an opportunity for women to undergo a general and sexual health check-up.
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