Sherry McMillan missed crucial doctor’s appointment before shock cervical cancer diagnosis

Sherry McMillan was diagnosed with cervical cancer six years ago, after missing a screening test because she had moved and did not receive the reminder which was sent to her previous address.

The Victorian mother-of-two now wants to do everything possible to ensure others avoid the ongoing impacts of cervical cancer.

“You are physically and psychologically affected and that affects your partner, too,” McMillan said.

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“My message to other women would be: Go and get screened.”

McMillan said the option now to self-test at home makes cervical screening far more accessible, and less likely to be something that gets pushed back.

“Being able to do a self-collected test makes it easier now, so I hope more women will get tested,” she said.

The number of Victorians testing themselves for cervical cancer has soared, with the uptake higher in regional and disadvantaged areas.

Strict rules about who could self-administer swabs changed in July 2022 and, over the following 12 months, 45,474 tests were done.

That is a 24-fold increase on the year before, according to National Cancer Screening Register data released on Wednesday.

Take-up in disadvantaged areas was about 20 per cent, which is greater than the 16 per cent recorded in the highest socio-economic areas.

More than 8000 self-administered tests were done by people who had never been screened before.

Sherry McMillan was diagnosed with cervical cancer six years ago after missing a screening test. Credit: AAP

Australian Centre for the Prevention of Cervical Cancer director Professor Marion Saville, an ambassador for Pathology Awareness Australia, is pleased by the trend.

“The expansion of the self-collection option to all routine screening participants has really helped to get some people to screen who may otherwise not have,” Saville said.

“This shift demonstrates a growing awareness and proactive approach to this area of preventative health.”

The data showed almost two in five self-collected tests were for people aged 55 and older, while about one quarter of people who were overdue for screening chose self-administered swabs.

Saville said self-collection was one of the best tools available to reduce health disparities in cervical cancer outcomes and move towards the elimination of this disease.

Cervical screening tests look for signs of human papillomavirus, which causes most cervical cancers.

Saville and cancer survivor McMillan will meet politicians on Wednesday at Victoria’s parliament to encourage greater awareness of the tests.

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