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Australia has become the first country in the world to offer self-testing kits to all patients who are due for a cervical cancer screening.

Patients will be able to choose self-testing swabs instead of the traditional method of a pap smear where a doctor carries out the swab which can feel quite invasive.

Here is what we know about the changes.

Australia launches self-testing kits for cervical cancer
Australia launches self-testing kits for cervical cancer (9News)

From today, patients can choose to get a self-swab to test for cervical cancer instead of having a health professional perform the test known as a pap smear.

It aims the bridge the gap with communities with low screening levels by making the test feel less invasive.

For many women and people with a cervix, particularly those who have experienced sexual violence or abuse, having a regular pap smear from a GP can be traumatic, and many women instead opt out of the test.

Being able to do the test yourself it’s hoped to increase the number of screenings.

How do I know if I’m eligible?

Anyone aged 25 to 74 with a cervix, who has ever been sexually active, can choose to have the test.

Cervical cancer screenings test for human papillomavirus (HPV) which is a common infection that can cause cervical cancer.

HPV is a sexually transmitted virus which usually shows no symptoms and goes away by itself, but can sometimes cause serious illness.

There are different HPV types – low risk and high risk – and high-risk viral infections can cause cervical cancer.

Photo shows positive result from pap smear of cervical cancer.
Photo shows positive result from pap smear of cervical cancer. (AP)

Don’t be alarmed, most people with cervixes who have the HPV infection never get cervical cancer; only a few types of HPV result in cervical cancer.

Also, most Australians receive a HPV vaccine while they’re at school.

However, anyone with a cervix who has been sexually active should undergo screening.

You can pick up a self-testing kit through a GP clinic, women’s health clinic, Aboriginal health centres and other healthcare providers.

So you will still need to go to a GP to get the test and they will provide guidance about how to perform it.

You can then go into a private room, perform the test, and drop it off for pathology.

Australia launches self-testing kits for cervical cancer
You can pick up the test from your health provider. (9News)

How do I perform the test?

As opposed to the usual pap smear, the self-collection tests don’t have to reach all the way up to the cervix which is why they’re normally done by GPs.

Instead, you can collect the swab from your health provider and using the swab take a sample from your vagina.

You can still opt to have a health care provider collect the sample using a speculum.

How often do you need a cervical cancer screening?

You need to have a test every five years.

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