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Cervical screening for healthcare professionals

The Secondary Prevention Branch within Wellbeing SA delivers a range of activities to maximise participation of South Australians in the National Cervical Screening Program.

Since the National Cervical Screening Program was introduced in 1991, there is greater knowledge and understanding about the development of cervical cancer and new technologies and testing capabilities have been developed. The clinical guidelines for cervical screening are the central source of information regarding the current cervical screening pathways. Recent updates have been made to the pathways for management of people at intermediate risk, and for self collection in pregnancy (see recommendation 14.13).

Self collection

Current eligibility criteria for self collection

To be eligible for self collection, persons with a cervix must be 30 years and older, and:

  • never screened; or
  • overdue for screening by two or more years (this is currently people whose last test was four or more years ago).

To obtain your clients’ screening history, access the National Cancer Screening Register.

Please note that pregnancy is no longer a contraindication for self collection, see recommendation 14.13 in the clinical guidelines. This is a recent update to the guidelines and not all supporting resources have been updated to reflect this change. The clinical guidelines are the central source of information for details on all aspects of cervical screening including self collection and for screening in pregnancy.

Potential changes to eligibility criteria

New evidence has shown that HPV testing using self collected samples is just as accurate as using clinician collected samples for cervical screening. In March 2021, the Medical Services Advisory Council (MSAC) reviewed the evidence of comparative safety and effectiveness, and recommended all people with a cervix who are due for cervical screening have the choice of accessing self collection. Please note that this policy change has not yet been implemented, and the above eligibility criteria still apply at this stage.

The government is considering this recommendation from MSAC, and a decision regarding implementation is anticipated in mid 2022.

Follow up and support after self collection

Research shows that people with a cervix who are not up to date with their screening or have never screened are likely to require additional support as they receive their results and whilst having followup testing. The National Cervical Screening Program has produced a toolkit to help support this group.

Pathology providers processing self collected samples

South Australian clinics have the choice between two pathology providers that are currently accredited to process self collected samples:

Clinpath Pathology:

VCS Pathology

  • phone the clinical advisory service: 03 9250 0309
  • samples can be posted via a free postage-paid service, and samples will be valid for 28 days after the sample is taken
  • web resources.

We recommend you call your chosen provider ahead of offering self collection, to order a stock of the swabs (red topped flock swab Copan FLOQswab 552C) and patient education materials, and to clarify sample transport/postage options.

National Cancer Screening Register (NCSR)

As part of the National Cervical Screening Program Renewal, a National Cancer Screening Register (NCSR) has been established by the Australian Government. This enables a single electronic record for each person participating in the National Cervical Screening Program and the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program.

Healthcare providers can access screening histories for their patients through the NCSR, by:

Healthcare providers can also call the NCSR to request ‘pathway advice’ if they are unsure about the correct pathway for a specific client.

Compass trial

Please be aware that the NCSR will not manage the records of participants in the Compass Trial. If you require information or a screening history for a Compass participant, please continue to contact the Compass Register on 1800 611 635. The Compass Register will continue to operate and support Compass participants, their providers and the laboratories for the duration of the trial.

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