Treatments and tests

Cervical screening – taking a self-collected sample

  • Self-collection is when you collect your own sample for HPV testing.
  • Self-collection is a safe and effective option for women aged 30 or older, who are either more than 2 years overdue for screening, or have never screened.
  • A self-collected sample is as effective as a clinician-collected Cervical Screening Test in detecting HPV.

In Australia, women are advised to have a Cervical Screening Test every 5 years. Over 70% of cervical cancer cases occur in women who have never screened or do not screen regularly.

Who is eligible for self-collection?

Some women may be eligible to take a self-collected sample for cervical screening.

Women aged 30 years or over who are either:

  • never screened
  • overdue for cervical screening by 2 years or longer.

Self-collection may also be considered for eligible women who are pregnant.

What does self-collection test for?

Self-collection tests for the human papillomavirus (HPV). A self-collected sample is taken from the vagina (not the cervix). It can be tested for HPV only, as the sample does not contain cervical cells required for further testing. If HPV is found, further follow-up is needed.

What is HPV?

HPV is the virus that causes most cervical cell changes and almost all cervical cancers. Many women will have HPV and never know, as there are usually no symptoms. In most cases, the body will naturally clear itself of HPV.

If the body does not clear HPV, it can cause cervical cell changes. If left undetected and/or untreated, these changes can develop into cervical cancer.

Read more about HPV.

How does self-collection work?

Self-collection is when you collect your own sample for HPV testing. Using a soft swab, you will collect your own sample of cells from the vagina. Your healthcare provider will explain how to do the test. It should not hurt.

A private room within the healthcare setting will be provided for you to collect your sample. When completed, your healthcare provider will send the self-collected sample to the laboratory for processing.

Self-collection test results

If no HPV is found, you will be encouraged to return for cervical screening in 5 years. If HPV is found, further follow-up is needed. This may include returning for a clinician-collected sample to check for cervical cell changes, or referral to a specialist. It is important to attend all recommended follow-up and specialist appointments. If you have any questions, talk with your healthcare provider.

Where to get help

Last reviewed: 07-12-2021

WA Cervical Cancer Prevention Program

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.