Cervical cancer screening saving lives

Nearly 6 in 10 women continue to participate in cervical screening programs in Australia, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Cervical screening in Australia 2013-2014, shows that more than 3.8 million women aged 20 to 69 participated in cervical screening in 2013-2014, a participation rate of 57%.

Participation was similar across remoteness areas, with the highest participation of 59% in Inner regional areas and lowest participation of 52% in Very remote areas.

The report also showed a clear trend of increasing participation with higher socioeconomic position, ranging from 52% for those living in the lowest socioeconomic areas to 64% for those living in the highest socioeconomic areas.

'Participation rates among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are not available due to Indigenous status information not being collected on pathology forms in all jurisdictions, although there is evidence that this population group is under-screened,' said AIHW spokesperson Mr Justin Harvey.

Lower participation in cervical screening is likely to have contributed to higher cervical cancer incidence rates in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women; the incidence of cervical cancer in Indigenous women remains more than twice that of non-Indigenous women, while the mortality rate is four times greater.

'For all women, in the first ten years of the National Cervical Screening Program, from 1991-2002, the rates of new cases and deaths halved, and since 2002 they have remained steady.'

In 2012, there were 725 new cases of cervical cancer diagnosed and in 2013 there were 149 deaths. This is equivalent to between nine and ten new cases of cervical cancer diagnosed per 100,000 women and two deaths from cervical cancer per 100,000 women.

'These rates are low by international standards and one of the aims of the National Cervical Screening Program is to reduce cervical cancer cases, as well as illness and death from cervical cancer in Australia', said Mr Harvey.

In 2014, for every 1,000 women screened, 8 women had a high-grade abnormality detected by histology, providing an opportunity for treatment before possible progression to cancer.

However, the number of cervical high-grade abnormalities detected in young women is at an all-time low-likely due to girls being vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV) through the National HPV Vaccination Program.

This report is the latest in the Cervical screening in Australia series, which is published annually to provide regular monitoring of NCSP participation and performance.

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.


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