Overcoming barriers to screening

Many women often face barriers to cervical screening. As a health care provider you can apply a range of strategies to encourage eligible women to have regular Pap tests.

  • Explain how a Pap test is carried out.
  • Ask if patients would prefer a female perform the Pap test.
  • Stress the importance of regular Pap tests as a preventative measure.
  • Be aware of language barriers (for instance, using a language or sign interpreter).
  • Encourage the patient to bring a friend or relative for support.
  • Send a reminder letter from your clinic when the woman's next Pap test is due.
  • Acknowledge specific cultural beliefs, for instance the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community consider Pap tests 'women's business'. In this circumstance arranging for a female to take the Pap test, and trying to find an Aboriginal health worker to accompany the woman may be helpful.
  • Acknowledge that Pap tests can be awkward.
  • Let women know that you can stop the test at any time if they feel uncomfortable.
  • Book longer appointments to allow sufficient time for questions, to discuss the process and allay concerns and issues.

Overcoming the Barriers training is now available in an electronic version for disability service workers and health professionals to access. The modules equip users with knowledge and skills to support people with disabilities to access the breast, bowel and cervical screening programs.

Overcoming the barriers: supporting people with intellectual disability to access cancer screening

Cancer Council Helpline