That’s right, no more awkward trips to the doctor’s for some lucky women.
A healthcare change that will see women who usually avoid pap smears able to test themselves from home will likely lead to a reduction in cervical cancer, experts say.
Each year, about 700 cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed nationally and more than 200 Australian women die from the disease.
Women who don’t normally get pap smears – including indigenous women, victims of sexual abuse and those who avoid the test for cultural or religious reasons – have the highest rates of cervical cancer.
These are the women who, from 2017, will be able to collect their own tissue samples in world-first changes to the country’s screening program, Fairfax Media reports.
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists vice president Dr Vijay Roach told Mamamia the changes would likely reduce the rate of cervical cancer because they targeted groups of high-risk women.
“Given that the cervical screening program has been so effective in reducing cancer in the general population it is probable that capturing previously unscreened women will lead to an overall reduction in the incidence of cervical cancer,” he said.
Dr Roach said women avoided pap smears for a variety of reasons – embarrassment, not being aware of its value, having an earlier negative gynaecological examination, believing they are not at risk or being uncomfortable with the process due to ethnic, religious or social reasons.
At this stage, changes to the National Cervical Cancer Screening Program mean only women who have never had a pap smear, or were long overdue, will be able to access the self-testing kits.
Dr Roach said despite the self-testing option becoming available, he still recommended having the test performed by a doctor.
“Cervical screening provides the opportunity to discuss a woman’s general gynaecological health and other aspects of her emotional and physical wellbeing,” he said.
“The chance of the test being performed properly and providing accurate and useful information is higher if performed by a doctor.”
And the self-collection option isn’t the only good news in the raft of changes.
From May 2017, women will only have to be screened for cervical cancer once every five years (instead of every two years), the age at which women are advised to start screening will be raised from 18 to 25, and the more accurate HPV test will replace the pap smear.