It is important to have regular Cervical Screening Tests as the best way to protect yourself against cervical cancer. Most cases of cervical cancer occur in women who have never screened or are not up-to-date with their screening.
What is self-collection?
Self-collection is when a woman takes her own sample for cervical screening. The sample is taken with a long cotton swab and is done under the supervision of a healthcare professional who also offers cervical screening. You will be given instructions on how to collect the sample and offered a private place to collect your sample, usually behind a screen or in a bathroom at the doctor’s or other healthcare setting. It is offered to women who have never screened for cervical cancer or who are overdue for their screening.
Who is eligible for self-collection?
If you are interested in self-collection as an option for cervical screening, you should talk to your GP to help you decide what is the best option for you.
Self-collection may be an option if:
- you are at least 30 years old
- you have never had a Cervical Screening Test (or a Pap Test), or
- you are at least two years overdue for cervical screening (or your last Pap test was at least four years ago).
Self-collection is not suitable if:
- are experiencing symptoms such as unusual bleeding, pain or discharge.
If you are eligible your GP will give you a swab and explain how to do the test.
Is a self-collected sample as effective as a sample taken by my GP?
When a GP takes a sample for cervical screening, they are collecting a sample of cells from your cervix. If you take your own sample via self-collection, you are collecting cells from your vagina. HPV can be found just as well in both cells from your cervix and cells from your vagina. If HPV is found on a self-collected sample, you may be referred to a specialist for further tests, or you will need to go back to your GP to have a sample of cervical cells collected, to see if there are any abnormal changes to your cervix.