One of my friends not very long in the country has asked me about receiving a letter from the National cervical screening program encouraging her to go and have a test done. I suggested getting in touch with her GP but she was told it would be months before an appointment. I don’t really know where else she could go in Melbourne. I was wondering if someone here would have any personal or through female family members experience on the best way to go about it other than a GP?
Information about the program is here:
Our family does the screening through our local GP.
Unless there is some concern about waiting, it would be best to discuss sampling/testing with a local GP one trusts as the process of obtaining samples for testing may be seen as a very private/personal experience.
Thank you @phb. I had emailed the health.gov.au to her, although I couldn’t find anything specific on it except the encouragement to see a health provider, which I passed on to her. The waiting list for an appointment in June seems a bit long to wait and makes me think it’s due to her being not long in the country and therefore a fairly new patient.
I’ve been having a look at Women’s health clinics in the area which do have earlier appointments but charge $250 ( 50% reimbursement by Medicare) and a deposit of $20.00 on booking. As she has no symptoms I suspect it’s not something she’d want to do.
Unfortunately the medical situation here is not an easy one.
I found our male doctor did not want to do pap smears, so I had to wait for him to recruit a female. She’s gone (a brilliant caring doctor) so women will have to wait. Near impossible to get into another doctor, unless you are already in a clinic which has more than one and they have capacity.
We are back to one now, and he’s pretty erratic with his days and takes long periods of leave at the drop of a hat. Which might explain why they can’t keep staff. I am not sure if a doctor can refuse to do “women’s health” or if they are obliged to offer it.
From websites it seems that more male GPs are choosing not to do Pap-smears because they feel they do not do enough of such procedures to maintain a good skill. Also often the presence of a nurse is preferred probably for legal/medical liability.
I’ve followed my mum’s example of asking to be referred to a gynaecologist for anything ‘female’ but I’m out of touch with current access and costs. Covid has worked many changes as far as waiting times for medical appointments and in the medical personnel available, and also in the higher costs of health. I’m going to stay away as long as I can hoping for a ‘return to normal’ in the near future.
Have a look at Self-collection for the Cervical Screening Test | Self-collection for the Cervical Screening Test and Aged Care, particularly the purple box entitled ‘How to Book’.
It may be possible to obtain a testing kit without having to wait for a doctor to become available, and do a self-collection.
I would just book the appointment with the GP in June. It isn’t that long to wait for a test which is done at 5-year intervals, and there is no urgency unless your friend develops any symptoms which suggest otherwise. This will also be the most cost-effective way.
If your friend has never had a cervical screening test before she should let the doctor know this at the appointment.
I’ve never experienced a male GP be hesitant to do a smear test, and having worked my whole career with gynaecologists, have observed no bias in empathy for the patient based on practitioner gender. Some doctors can be somewhat abrupt, others are extra slow and gentle, and being male or female makes no difference (hence letting her doctor know if this is her first test).
I also think she might as well take the June appointment (if it’s still available) and be done with it.
Although self-collection can be done in private it still needs a health provider to asses, inform, and eventually report on the results.
But in my friend’s case privacy is not the problem, she is finding it difficult to get a GP to see her and get the test out of the way.
That “health provider” would be a pathology lab. They typically report results back to a GP, which involves a follow-up appointment. Patients allegedly have the right to access their medical records, and it’s possibly to obtain lab results from the lab directly - I’ve done it with blood tests and x-rays. As the Americans would say, YMMV.
As the topic has branched out into self-collection, I’d just like to add some more information:
Self-collection is an option for the cervical cancer screening test, but it must be ordered and overseen by a healthcare provider (usually a GP).
A consultation is still required for:
- explanation on how to collect the sample,
- support in collection if wanted,
- explaining the result,
- support if any follow up appointments are required,
- answer any questions.
A private space will be given, usually behind a curtain or in a bathroom.
The sample is taken with a swab from the vagina and checked for human papilloma virus (HPV) which causes nearly all cervical cancers.
But as it doesn’t look for cervical cells abnormalities (like a Pap smear does) is therefore not appropriate for people who have symptoms of the cancer.
The aim of self-collection is to reach a larger section including those in remote areas; culturally and linguistically diverse groups; victims of trauma and violence…
It is hoped that it will help to get closer to eradicate the cancer altogether.