Self-collection

Self-collection is now an option for all routine cervical screening participants.

All participants in the National Cervical Screening program can now choose to screen using either a self-collected vaginal sample or a healthcare practitioner-collected sample from the cervix, accessed through a healthcare provider in both cases.

Self-collection was previously only available under certain eligibility guidelines, but, from 1 July 2022, this option was expanded to all women and people with a cervix participating in cervical screening.

A self-collected sample is taken from the vagina and is tested for the presence of HPV. Recent evidence shows self-collection is as sensitive for the detection of HPV and CIN2+/AIS as a sample taken from the cervix during a speculum examination.

Learn more about the changes to the National Cervical Screening Program Guidelines to support universal self-collection by watching this short video. 

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Who is HPV self-collection for?

Who is eligible for self-collection?

Self-collection is available as an option to all people eligible for a cervical screening test, that is, people who are:

  • Aged between 25-74
  • Are due or overdue for routine cervical screening
  • Have no signs or symptoms suggestive of cervical cancer, and do not need a co-test for any other reason

Who is not eligible for self-collection?

Self-collection is not appropriate for patients that require a co-test, for example because they:

  • Have signs or symptoms suggestive of cervical cancer, including postcoital, intermenstrual or post-menopausal bleeding, or unexplained persistent unusual vaginal discharge
  • Are undergoing Test of Cure surveillance or have been treated for adenocarcinoma-in-situ (AIS)
  • Have had a total hysterectomy with a history of high-grade squamous intraepithelial lesion (HSIL)
  • Have been exposed to diethylstilbesterol (DES) in utero

Supporting patients to make the choice

Healthcare practitioners are best placed to talk with their patients about cervical screening and to help them determine their preferred option for their screening test. Clear information on the pros and cons of both screening options (including possible follow-up requirements if HPV is detected using self-collection) must be given to support informed decision-making by the patient. 

It is important to note that if HPV is detected on a self-collected vaginal sample, depending on the type of HPV detected, the patient will either need to return for a healthcare practitioner-collected cervical sample for LBC testing, or be referred to a specialist for colposcopic assessment. 

Our Cervical Screening – Supporting Your Patients to Make the Choice resource brings together the latest information to help you support your patient make the choice. 

An important tool to increase cervical screening rates for your patients

Self-collection makes screening possible for people who are uncomfortable with having a speculum examination for a range of personal reasons, removing a significant barrier to participation in screening. It provides a more acceptable option for many groups that are less likely to screen, including Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander women, culturally and linguistically diverse communities, people who identify as LGBTIQ+, people with disabilities, people who have experienced sexual violence, post- menopausal women and people who have had previous negative cervical screening experiences. 

A pilot study demonstrated that 85.7% of never-screened or under-screened women and people with a cervix who declined a speculum examination agreed to HPV self-collection when the test was offered to them in a sensitive and culturally appropriate manner and with appropriate follow-up advice. 

Clare's Story

Clare is a 42 year old LGTBIQ+ woman who was diagnosed with cervical cancer after a HPV self-collection test. She says the technique saved her life. In this video, Clare and her wife George share an important story about self-collection. 

Further support for practitioners

List of further resources and support to help you implement self-collection in your practice