Massive growth in use of cervical self-collection screening

Matt Woodley

27/06/2023 4:30:14 PM

Use of the screening option has at least doubled in each quarter since eligibility expanded, MBS statistics show.

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Self-collection has been a popular cervical cancer screening option for many women since eligibility criteria expanded.

The popularity of self-collection as a cervical cancer screening option continues to increase, with MBS statistics showing the number of monthly services growing from 1161 in July 2022 – when eligibility criteria expanded – to more than 13,000 in April of this year.
The uptake continues a trend reported on by newsGP in January, which has seen the number of women accessing self-collection double in each quarter since it became available to all people with a cervix, not just those who were under- or never-screened.
In Queensland, early data released today suggests that the expanded criteria has had a particular impact on northern and western parts of the state, where participation has exploded.
‘Early data shows us that people living in the most remote areas of Queensland are more than twice as likely to choose a self-collected test compared with people living in urban areas,’ Queensland Health spokesperson Dr Anna Hawkes said.

‘Self-collection has been well-received in Western and Northern Queensland, with 20% of tests in these Primary Health Networks being self-collected and an impressive 48.6% of Cervical Screening Tests in the Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service being self-collected.

‘These numbers are significant since cervical screening participation rates are normally lowest in the state’s most remote areas and among First Nations people, but cervical cancer incidence and mortality is highest for these people.’

The Northern Territory – which has the highest percentage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the country – has also benefited.
In the first quarter of 2023, 300 services per 100,000 people were recorded, more than double the nationwide average and a figure 150 times higher than Q1 2022, the last quarter before criteria expanded.
Meanwhile, older people with a cervix who had never been screened previously also seem to be driving increased numbers, with this cohort most likely to choose self-collection.
‘We know some people may feel uncomfortable getting a cervical screen by a clinician, so the self-collect option makes the process much more private and comfortable,’ Dr Hawkes said.

‘Recent data shows that among people aged 30–74 years who had never had a Cervical Screening Test before, almost one in five were choosing to self-collect their sample.

‘For women aged 60–69 years who had never screened before, self-collection was chosen by almost one in three women compared with one in seven women aged 30–34 years old who had not previously screened.

‘Research shows over 70% of cervical cancers occur in women who have not been screened as often as recommended or who have never participated in screening, so it’s great to see an increase in people participating in self-collection among these cohorts.’

But despite the progress, Dr Hawkes said many people with a cervix who have been sexually active do not know that a cervical screening test should be done every five years between the ages of 25–74 years.

‘Because cervical cancer can take up to 10–15 years to develop, the early detection of HPV and cell changes means it may be possible to prevent HPV infection developing into cervical cancer,’ she said.

‘We know people may not have kept their routine screening appointments during the pandemic.
‘Our message to women aged 25–74 years who have delayed is that now is the time to catch up, regardless of whether you have been vaccinated against HPV.’

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