The National Cervical Screening Program is a joint program of the Australian Government and state and territory governments. The main objective of the Program is to reduce incidence and mortality from cervical cancer through organised cervical screening. The target age group is women aged 20-69 years.

Cervical screening in Australia 2006-2007 is the 11th annual report on key program activity, performance and outcome indicators to monitor the achievements of the National Cervical Screening Program. This report, a comprehensive national picture of cervical screening in Australia for 2006-2007, combines data provided by state and territory cervical screening programs, as well as data sourced from the National Cancer Statistics Clearing House and the AIHW Mortality Database. It presents the most recent information on the six Program performance indicators that cover participation in cervical screening, rate of early re-screening, low- and high-grade abnormality detection, and incidence and mortality of cervical cancer.

Participation in cervical screening

The number of women 20-69 years participating in cervical screening in Australia increased from 2,563,107* in 1996-1997, when reporting commenced, to 3,549,524 in 2006-2007.

Two-year participation in 2006-2007 was 61.5% for women aged 20-69 years. This is the highest participation has been since it peaked at 63.4% in 1998-1999. Higher participation in cervical screening means that more women with pre-cancerous abnormalities can be detected and managed before progression to cervical cancer, thus reducing incidence and mortality.

Three-year participation for 2005-2007 was 74.0% and 5-year participation for 2003-2007 was 86.4% for women aged 20-69 years, indicating that Australia has comparable participation rates to international cervical screening programs.

Compliance with recommended screening interval

The proportion of women who were re-screened early following a normal Pap test has continued to decline from 32.0% in a cohort of women from 1999 to 23.1% in a cohort of women from 2006. This trend indicates greater compliance with the recommend screening interval of 2 years, which is important for maintaining the cost-effectiveness of the Program.

Detection of abnormalities

The detection of high-grade abnormalities by histology in women aged 20-69 years was 7.0 per 1,000 women screened in 2007, lower than the 2006 rate of 7.3. Most high-grade abnormalities were detected in women aged 20-34 years.

Incidence and mortality of cervical cancer

Incidence and mortality of cervical cancer in Australia remain low, consistent with the Program's aim to reduce incidence and mortality. There were 9.2 new cases per 100,000 women in 2005, and 1.9 deaths per 100,000 women in 2006 (aged 20-69 years). Incidence for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women has been estimated to be more than double (ABS & AIHW 2008), and mortality found to be five times that of other Australian women.

Summary trend comparison table for national data for women 20-69 years
  Current reporting period Previous reporting period Reporting commencement
Indicator Year(s) value Year(s) value Year(s) value
Participation in 2-year period (per cent) (age-standardised rate) 2006-2007 61.5 2005-2006 60.6 1996-1997 61.0
Participation in 3-year period (per cent) (age-standardised rate) 2005-2007 74.0 2004-2006 73.1 2004-2006 73.1
Participation in 5-year period (per cent) (age-standardised rate) 2003-2007 86.4 2002-2006 85.9 2002-2006 85.9
Early re-screening within 21 months of normal Pap test(a) (per cent) 2006 23.1 2005 24.4 1999(a) 32.0
Ratio of low-grade to high-grade abnormalities 2007 0.95 2006 1.05 1997 1.47
High-grade abnormalities per 1,000 women screened (age-standardised rate) 2007 7.0 2006 7.3 1997 6.4
Incidence of cervical cancer per 100,000 women (age-standardised rate) 2005 9.2 2004 9.0 1997 11.4
Mortality from cervical cancer per 100,000 women (age-standardised rate) 2006 1.9 2005 2.0 1997 3.0
  1. From 1996-1998 the indicator reported on a 2-year period following a normal Pap test; in 1999, the indicator was changed to a 21-month interval, hence 1999 is the earliest year for which data are available for comparison.

Note: The New South Wales Pap test register commenced in July 1996; therefore data have been estimated for the period January to July 1996. The Queensland Health Pap smear register began operations in February 1999; therefore no data are available for the 1996-1997 reporting period. The Northern Territory Pap test register commenced in March 1996, therefore data have been estimated for the period January to March 1996.

* Note that this figure does not include women screened by the Queensland program.