Doctors and medical care
As a woman with disability, it is important to make your needs known when you access healthcare and medical services.
It is important that your doctor considers your needs as a woman as well as your needs as a person with a disability. This includes considering how any treatment you have may affect your contraception, fertility and menstrual cycle, as well as any health screens you may need.
Your rights in healthcare
When you use healthcare services, you have rights as a patient. For example, you have the right to:
- be safe and treated with respect
- make your own decisions about your health
- be given information about your health and be able to choose who else sees your information
- be given extra support or provided with alternative options if you need it.
Tip: You can Learn more about your healthcare rights on the Healthcare page.
If you are having sex, you should get a cervical screening test (or ‘pap smear’) from your doctor to check for infections and signs of cancer. Cervical screening tests are the best way to protect yourself against cervical cancer.
You are suggested to get a cervical screening test if you are:
- a woman or person with a cervix
- aged between 25 - 74
- sexually active or ever have been.
A pap smear can be done in a few minutes by your doctor or your local family planning clinic (external link).
Watch the Family Planning NSW video (external website) about cervical screening:
Where to get the test?
In Australia, you can get a cervical screening test at different places, including:
- a doctor's clinic
- a community health centre
- a women's health centre
- a family planning clinic
- a sexual health clinic
- an Aboriginal Medical Service or AboriginalCommunity Controlled Health Service.
If you prefer, you can ask for a female health professional to do your test.
What happens during the test?
During the test, your doctor, or a nurse will ask you to take your bottom clothes off and lie on your back with your knees apart, so that they can take a sample from your cervix, which is inside your vagina.
They will insert a small device (called a ‘speculum’) into your vagina to help them reach your cervix. They will then take a swab from the cervix that will be sent away to be tested.
If you need assistance or particular supports to be able to have a pap smear (e.g. a support person or an adjustable bed), you have the right to talk to your doctor or nurse about your needs.
When will I get the results?
Once your doctor has taken a sample from your cervix, they will send it to a lab to be tested. You will usually be told your results within a few weeks. If they are normal you will not need to have another test for five years. If the results are not normal, your doctor will contact you to discuss the result.
Tip: You can learn more about health checks for women on the Health Direct website (external link).
Sexually transmissible infection screening
Sexually transmissible infections (STIs) are infections that you can get during sex. There are many STIs including chlamydia, herpes, gonorrhoea, syphilis, genital herpes, scabies, pubic lice (‘crabs’), hepatitis and HIV.
Not all STIs have obvious symptoms, but sometimes they can cause:
- unusual discharge from the genitals or anus
- pain during urination
- sores, blisters, lumps, warts or rashes in the genital area.
You should get checked for Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) once a year if you are under 30 and there is a potential risk of STIs. For example, if you have unprotected sex with a new partner, or if you are unsure of your sexual partner's sexual history. It is also important to get checked for any STIs if you are sexually assaulted. You can do this at your doctor or at your local Family planning clinic (external link).
What happens during a STI Test?
When you go for a STI test, the doctor will ask you some questions about the sex you have had recently.
A full check-up will include:
- having a blood test with a needle
- giving your doctor a urine sample in a container
- a swab of your throat, genitals and anus
- a physical check of your genitals.
If you need assistance or particular supports to be able to have a STI test (e.g. a support person or an adjustable bed), you should talk to your doctor or nurse about your needs.
When will I get my results?
You should get the results from your test/s within a few weeks after your appointment.
Breast screening can detect most breast cancers even before they can be felt or noticed and is the most effective way to detect breast cancer.
If you are over 50, you should get a Breast Scan (or ‘mammogram’) every 2 years to check for signs of cancer. If you have a family history of breast cancer, you may need to start having breast screening at a younger age. It is important to discuss this with your doctor.
Watch the Family Planning NSW video (external website) about breast screening:
Having a mammogram
Breast Screen Australia (external link) offers free screening every two years to women between 50 and 74 years of age. If you live in Australia, you will receive an invitation when you are due for a mammogram.
A mammogram scan is taken by squeezing each breast between two plates for about 10-15 seconds while an x-ray is taken.
In some cases, your health condition or disability may prevent the radiographer from being able to position you for a mammogram. If you are not able to have a mammogram, you may be able to have another test like an ultrasound. You can talk about these options with your doctor.
If you need assistance or particular supports to be able to have a mammogram (e.g. a support person), you should talk to your doctor or radiographer about your needs.
Tip: You can learn more on the Breast Screen Australia website (external link).
When will I get my results?
You will get the results from your mammogram within a few weeks after your appointment.
In Australia, 1 in 23 people develop bowel cancer at some point in their life. For this reason, the Australian government has introduced a National Bowel Screening Program (external link), for people over 50.
If you are between the ages of 50 and 74, you will be invited to have a bowel screening test every 2 years to check for signs of bowel cancer. You will receive your screening invitation, free screening test kit and other program information in the post around the time of your birthday.
Watch the Family Planning NSW video (external website) about bowel screening:
What does the test involve?
The bowel cancer screening test is easy, quick and can be done at home. The home test kit includes an instruction sheet that explains how to do the test. It will ask you to collect small samples of your stool over a certain time frame. Once you have collected the samples, you need to send them back in the envelope that came with your kit.
When will I get my results?
Once you have sent in your samples they will be tested for blood and your results will be sent to you, your doctor or health service within two weeks.
If blood is found in your samples, your test result will be positive and you will need to discuss the result with your doctor. Your doctor may recommend a further test to find the cause of the bleeding, usually a colonoscopy. A positive result may be due to conditions other than cancer (such as polyps, hemorrhoids or inflammation of the bowel). If your test results are normal, you will not need to do another test for 2 years.
Tip: Learn more on the National Bowel Screening Program website (external link).