Cervical cancer rates unchanged after introduction of new management guidelines in 2006

Changes in the guidelines for the management of abnormal Pap test results and cervical biopsies in 2006 have not led to a rise in cervical cancer, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The Report on monitoring activities of the National Cervical Screening Program Safety Monitoring Committee presents the evidence that the Safety Monitoring Committee considered in assessing whether there were any adverse outcomes following the introduction of new NHMRC guidelines.

The Safety Monitoring Committee was established in 2005 by the Department of Health to review information collected by cervical cytology registers on cervical abnormalities and cervical cancer after the introduction of the new guidelines, and to monitor any impact of the new guidelines.

The changes in the guidelines related specifically to how women with a low-grade Pap test result or a treated high-grade cervical biopsy result should be managed.

'The evidence collected to date shows that the introduction of the new guidelines has not led to an increase in cervical cancer cases in the seven years since they were introduced,' said AIHW spokesperson Justin Harvey.

Over 2 million Pap tests are performed on Australian women each year, with around 110,000 of these tests detecting abnormal cells.
The early detection and management of cervical abnormalities-particularly 'high-grade' abnormalities (i.e. pre-cancerous changes that required further investigation) is how the National Cervical Screening Program (NCSP) helps prevent the development of cervical cancers.

'The guidelines were modified in 2006 based on epidemiological and scientific evidence and a new understanding of the role of the human papillomavirus (HPV) in cervical cancer', Mr Harvey said.

'We found that attendance by women for a follow-up test within the recommended time of 3 months after an abnormal test result is generally high, although women aged less than 30 are less likely to attend within 15 months than women aged over 30.

'The report also shows that women who completed recommended treatment after a high-grade cervical biopsy result are unlikely to have a subsequent high-grade biopsy result, and to date none have developed cervical cancer.'

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 22 November 2013

Further information: Justin Harvey, AIHW, tel. (02) 6249 5057, mob. 0450 677 562

Professor David Roder, Chair of the National Cervical Screening Program Safety Monitoring Committee, tel. 0478 408 386