Toolkit for engaging Under-screened and Never-screened women in the National Cervical Screening Program

Informed consent for screening

Page last updated: 14 November 2019 (this page is generated automatically and reflects updates to other content within the website)

Women should be supported to make an informed choice about participating in the NCSP. As with all medical testing, informed consent must be obtained before the Cervical Screening Test is undertaken.

Informed consent for screening can only be given if women:

  • Have the capacity to give informed consent to the proposed procedure
  • Have been given adequate information to enable them to make an informed decision
  • Have been given a reasonable opportunity to make the decision
  • Have given consent freely without undue pressure or coercion by any other person, and
  • Have not withdrawn consent or indicated any intention to withdraw consent.
Involving women in the decision-making process helps to respect their autonomy, and includes acknowledging both the benefits and harms associated with screening.

Benefits of cervical screening

Potential harms associated with cervical screening

  • Regular cervical screening is one of the main methods to prevent cervical cancer.
  • Cervical cancer has a long pre-cancerous stage which provides an opportunity for the early detection of abnormalities through cervical screening.
  • Treatment of cervical abnormalities is highly effective for preventing progression to cervical cancer.
  • Cervical screening can lead to treatment of cervical abnormalities that may go away on their own.
  • There is an increased risk of pregnancy-related morbidity due to unnecessary excisional treatments.

(Please note that the risk of treatment-related harm is minimised in the renewed NCSP as reflex LBC will be used to triage samples that have oncogenic HPV types detected.)

  • False positive test results may cause anxiety.

Informed consent is particularly important when working with women with low English literacy and women with intellectual disabilities. Healthcare providers should take additional steps to ensure these patients have been given sufficient information, that they fully understand the procedure and that they freely consent.

Healthcare provider resource: