Women across the South West are being encouraged to screen themselves for cervical cancer amid changes to testing. Cancer Council WA has launched a campaign to increase the number of people undertaking a cervical screening test every five years following changes to the National Cervical Screening Program. As of July, those who don’t want to have the traditional cervical screen, or pap smear, will be be able to collect a sample themselves using a vaginal swab. South West regional education officer Julie Rose said the self collection option could remove help personal or cultural barriers to getting screened. “Currently around 64 per cent of West Australians eligible to participate are up-to-date with their screening, but some priority populations have higher numbers of people who have either never screened, or who do not screen regularly,” Ms Rose said. “The option of self-collection aims to increase participation by addressing some of the barriers to participation that some people may experience, thereby contributing to an equitable acceleration in Australia’s progress towards the elimination of cervical cancer.” Traditional pap smears and the new self-testing kits detect the presence of the human papillomavirus. Although having HPV does not necessarily mean someone has cervical cancer, the Cancer Council notes almost all cases of cervical cancer are caused by persistent infection with some high-risk types of the virus. Ms Rose said detecting HPV early can stop the virus from making changes to cells which could lead to cancer. “We know one of the best ways to prevent cervical cancer is regular screening,” she said. “Most people who develop cervical cancer have either never screened or do not screen regularly.” According to the Federal Department of Health and Aged Care, a self-collected sample is as safe and accurate at detecting HPV as a traditional cervical screening. However, the option is generally not considered appropriate for those with cervical cancer or unusual symptoms due to it not being able to test abnormalities in cervical cells. “We encourage women and people with a cervix aged 25-74 in the South West to talk to their healthcare provider about which option is best for them,” Ms Rose said. More information on the testing can be found at atyourcervix.org.au.