Women's health - DIY screening to prevent cervical cancer is safe and simple
A new screening test to prevent cervical cancer is so easy you can do it yourself. It can even be more accurate than a smear.
If you’ve ever had a pap smear at your doctor, you might have wished there was an easier, less awkward way to go about it.
For more than 30 years, Aotearoa has been offering smears to eligible people every three years, as a screening test to detect early changes on the cervix that may lead to cervical cancer.
Right now, this involves visiting your doctor and having a speculum inserted into the vagina, so the doctor can take a sample of cells from the cervix.
For some people, this is no bother and the smear itself causes little to no discomfort. But others may find it embarrassing or even painful — enough to be put off screening altogether, sometimes. There are also equity barriers to screening, including cost, transport, time, and access to appropriate and culturally safe services.
New Zealand also has big inequities in cervical cancer rates: Māori and Pacific peoples have lower rates of cervical screening, higher rates of cervical cancer, and are also more likely to die from it.
So, from July next year, New Zealand is moving to a new better screening programme, testing for the human papillomavirus (HPV) every five years instead.
With the new test, that speculum is optional, and a swab is taken from the vagina, instead of cells from the cervix, to test for the HPV virus. You can even do it yourself.
But is it as accurate as the old way? And is it better to get a doctor or nurse to do the swab?
Originally published on Stuff - you can read more from this article here