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NSW’s chief cancer officer has urged women to get a quick but vital medical test, with research indicating that 70 per cent of women who are diagnosed with cervical cancer were not up to date with screening.

This comes as people with cervixes aged between 25 to 74 in NSW can opt for a self-collection cervical screening test, instead of having the procedure performed by a medical professional or a GP.

The cervical screening procedure, which replaced the invasive Pap test in 2017, tests for the human papillomavirus infection, which is the cause of almost all cervical cancers.

With Australia on track to be the first country to eliminate cervical cancer by 2035, NSW Chief Cancer Officer and Cancer Institute NSW chief executive Tracey O’Brien said that along with the HPV vaccine, getting a test every five years could be lifesaving.

“This is a highly preventable cancer that is taking lives,” she said.

“Regular screening is your best chance of detecting this cancer early and getting effective treatment. It’s also a highly treatable cancer if detected early.”

Since July 1, 2022, eligible women have had access to self-collection cervical screening tests, with more than 13,000 patients taking part in the last 12 months.

People are given a swab by a GP or medical practitioner, and directed to a private room where they can take their own sample, before it’s taken to a lab for analysis.

Both methods are also equally as effective.

Prof O’Brien said the initial figures were “encouraging,” and indicated the self-collection method was helping to “break down some of the barriers and encouraging people to take part when they weren’t previously”.

The deputy chief executive of ACON, a NSW-based HIV and LGBTQ+ health organisation, Karen Price said the self-administered test would be a “quite a game changer,” especially for marginalised groups like culturally and linguistically diverse, Aboriginal, or LGBTQ+ communities.

“I do think that LGBTQ+ people have taken to it and it is very popular because it’s more comfortable, it’s more private and it’s empowering. You’re in control of your own health experience in that clinical setting,” she said.

“It also overcomes some of the potential reasons to not do it.”

ACON recently partnered with Cancer Institute NSW through the Own It campaign to boost self-collection test rates in young people.

“We really want to reinforced to anyone with a cervix that you do now have choice and these options do make it easier,” said Ms Price.

“Don’t put it off because we know that early detection means that people’s outcomes are much better.”

NSW Health Minister Ryan Park said the test was already saving potentially lives, with 73 per cent of the 13,000 people who had selected the self-collection option overdue for a check-up.

The government has also committed $300,000 to train 200 midwives and 50 Aboriginal health workers on the Cervical Screening Test’s self-collection option to increase the uptake of the test.

“More than 1000 NSW health professionals have already been trained on self-collection, with the latest round of training helping us move that one step closer to achieving our goal of eliminating cervical cancer by the mid-2030s,” he said.

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By Rahul

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