More than 3.6 million women were screened by the National Cervical Screening Program (NCSP) in 2010-2011, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).
The NCSP aims to reduce cervical cancer cases, as well as illness and death from cervical cancer in Australia, through regular screening.
The report, Cervical cancer screening in Australia 2010-2011, shows that in 2010-2011, 57% of women in the target population group (aged 20-69) screened through the NCSP.
'Participation had decreased slightly in 2010-2011, down from 58% in 2009-2010, and 59% in 2008-2009,' said AIHW spokesperson Justin Harvey.
'Despite the slight fall in the proportion of women participating in the NCSP, the number of participants continued to rise and detection of high-grade abnormalities remained high.'
Detection of high-grade abnormalities, which have a greater probability of progressing to invasive cancer than low-grade abnormalities, provides an opportunity for treatment before possible progression to cervical cancer. In this way, early detection of serious abnormalities through cervical screening can help prevent the development of cervical cancer.
In 2011, for every 1,000 women screened, 8 women had a high-grade abnormality detected.
Participation was similar across remoteness areas, with the highest rate recorded for Inner regional areas (58%) and the lowest in Remote areas (55%).
'Greater differences were seen in participation rates across socioeconomic status, with a clear trend of increasing participation with increasing socioeconomic status,' Mr Harvey said.
Participation ranged from 52% in areas of lowest socioeconomic status to 63% in areas where socioeconomic status was highest.
The latest available figures show that for women aged 20-69 there were 631 new cases of cervical cancer diagnosed in 2009, and 152 women died from cervical cancer in 2010.
'The good news is that incidence rates and mortality rates have both halved since the NCSP was introduced in 1991-remaining at their historic lows of 9 new cases and 2 deaths per 100,000 women since 2002,' Mr Harvey said.
The number of new cases of cervical cancer per 100,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women was more than twice that for non-Indigenous women. The number of deaths per 100,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women was 5 times the non-Indigenous rate.
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.