Cervical screening for Aboriginal women

Key Facts about Cervical Screening

  • Cervical screening should happen as part of your regular women’s health checks.

  • Cervical screening is for well women with no symptoms. Screening can find problems early, so that you can have the right treatment and live a healthy life.

  • You can have the test at an Aboriginal Medical Service or Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service

  • The test usually only takes a few minutes - and while it may be uncomfortable, it could save your life!

Book your Cervical Screening Test and be around for your family

Cervical screening is an important part of being healthy for yourself and your family. Just one Cervical Screening Test every five years can help you avoid cervical cancer – so a few minutes every five years could save your life. Ask your Aboriginal Health Worker, doctor or nurse about cervical screening today.

Don’t want to see someone connected to your mob for your Cervical Screening Test? We can help you find someone else.

When is my Cervical Screening Test due?

From December 2017, the Cervical Screening Test replaced the Pap test*.

If you’ve been having Pap tests and your results were normal, you will be due for your first Cervical Screening Test two years after your last Pap test, then every five years following a normal (HPV-negative) test result.

If your last Pap test was more than two years ago or you’ve never screened, you should book your Cervical Screening Test now.

If you’re unsure when you’re due for your next cervical screen, contact your doctor or call 1800 627 701. 
 

Information on cervical screening

Cervical screening is for well women, to keep you healthy for your kids and family. Screening is private, and you can ask for a female doctor or nurse.

To help you understand what cervical screening is all about, we’ve put together some information on what screening is, why it’s important, and what to expect at your regular cervical screening appointment.
 

What is cervical cancer?

Cervical cancer is cancer occurring in the cells of the cervix, the lower part of the uterus (womb) which opens into the vagina.

An infection called human papillomavirus is the cause of almost all cervical cancers.[1]

What is cervical screening?

Cervical screening prevents cervical cancer by looking for HPV.

HPV is a very common infection that most people will have at some point - it is transmitted through sexual activity. HPV usually clears up on its own naturally within 1-2 years, however in rare cases, HPV infection does not clear up and can cause cell changes which can lead to cervical cancer. This usually takes 10-15 years.

Why is cervical screening important?

As HPV doesn’t usually cause any symptoms, most women with an infection won’t even know they have it. Cervical screening identifies these women, so they can be monitored and treated to prevent cervical cancer developing.

Who should have a Cervical Screening Test?

If you’re aged 25-74 and have ever been sexually active (even with just one partner), you need to have a Cervical Screening Test every five years. This includes women who have already had the HPV vaccine.

If you’ve been having Pap tests and your results were normal, you’ll be due for your first Cervical Screening Test two years after your last Pap test. If your last Pap test was more than two years ago or if you’ve never screened, you should ask your Aboriginal Health Worker, doctor or nurse about cervical screening today.

Cervical screening is for well women with no symptoms, and is an important part of living a healthy life.

If you experience any symptoms, such as unusual bleeding or pain, you should see your doctor straight away rather than waiting to have your Cervical Screening Test.

What happens at a cervical screening appointment?

When you arrive for your Cervical Screening Test, the nurse or doctor will take you to a private room, where they will talk to you about the test and explain what it will involve.

They might also use this time to talk to you about your general health. When you’re ready for the test, they’ll ask you to remove your clothing from the waist down and lie on the bed (you can use a sheet to cover yourself).

The nurse or doctor will ask you to bend your knees and will gently insert an instrument called a speculum into your vagina. This is so they can get a clear view of your cervix and can collect a small cell sample.

The test does not take long and is completely safe. You may feel some discomfort, but it should not hurt. If you feel any pain, tell your nurse or doctor and ask them to use lubrication.

While it might seem uncomfortable or awkward to have your Cervical Screening Test, it’s important to remember that doctors and nurses perform these tests all the time as part of their job.

How will I get the results of my Cervical Screening Test?

After your test, the cells will be sent to a laboratory for testing, and the nurse or doctor will explain to you how you will get your results. The good news is, if HPV is not found in your cells, your next Cervical Screening Test will be in five years.

If HPV is found in your cells, your doctor will let you know if you need to have another Cervical Screening Test in 12 months, or have further tests sooner.
 

Where can I have my Cervical Screening Test?

You can have your Cervical Screening Test at many places: an Aboriginal Medical Service, an Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service, your local doctor’s clinic, a women’s health clinic, or a family planning clinic.

It’s ok to choose someone who isn’t your usual doctor if this will make you feel more comfortable having your test. If you’re feeling anxious about the test, tell the nurse or doctor how you feel. You may also want to take a support person along with you, e.g. a family member or friend.

Find a Cervical Screening Test provider

What results might I receive?

Possible results include:

  • Return to screen in five years
  • Unsatisfactory result
  • Repeat test in 12 months
  • Refer to specialist

Return to screen in five years

Your Cervical Screening Test indicates you do not have human papillomavirus (HPV). The National Cervical Screening Program will send you an invitation to have your next Cervical Screening Test in five years time.

Unsatisfactory result

An unsatisfactory result does not mean there is something wrong, it means your sample could not be read properly. It is important that you repeat the test in six-twelve weeks.

Repeat test in 12 months

Your Cervical Screening Test shows you that you have a HPV infection. Because your body is likely to get rid of the infection within the next 12 months, you should have a repeat test in 12 months to make sure the infection is gone.

If the HPV infection is gone 12 months later, you can return to screening again in five years.

If the repeat test shows that HPV is still there, you may need further investigations by a specialist.

Refer to specialist

Your Cervical Screening Test has shown that you have a type of HPV that needs further investigation by a specialist, or that your cells have changed in a way that needs a specialist to decide if you need treatment.

It is important that you follow the instructions of your healthcare provider if you receive this result.    


What if I forget when my next Cervical Screening Test is due?

If you’re unsure when you’re due for your next cervical screen, contact your doctor who can look it up for you, or call 1800 627 701. 

[1] Department of Health, 2020. Information for healthcare providers about their role in the National Cervical Screening Program. Available at http://www.cancerscreening.gov.au/internet/screening/publishing.nsf/Content/healthcare-providers

 

*In December 2017, the Cervical Screening Test replaced the Pap test as the method of screening women to prevent cervical cancer in Australia.