The National Cervical Screening Program (NCSP) aims to reduce cervical cancer cases, as well as illness and death from cervical cancer in Australia, through an organised approach to cervical screening aimed at detecting and treating high-grade abnormalities before possible progression to cervical cancer. The target group is women aged 20-69.

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 following statistics are the latest data available for women aged 20-69.

Cervical cancer cases and deaths are low by international standards

In 2016, it is estimated that there will be 750 women aged 20-69 diagnosed with cervical cancer and that 163 women will die from cervical cancer. This is equivalent to between 9 and 10 new cases of cervical cancer diagnosed per 100,000 women and 2 deaths from cervical cancer per 100,000 women. These rates are similar to those in previous years.

Both incidence and mortality halved between the introduction of the NCSP in 1991 and the year 2002, and have since remained at 9 to 10 new cases and 2 deaths, per 100,000 women.

Incidence of cervical cancer in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women was more than twice that of non-Indigenous women, and mortality was 4 times the non-Indigenous rate.

Around 6 in 10 women participate in the National Cervical Screening Program

In 2013-2014, more than 3.8 million women participated in cervical screening. This was 57% of women aged 20-69. The age-standardised participation of 58% has not changed over the past few years, with age-standardised participation in 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 also at 58%.

Participation varied across remoteness areas, ranging from 52% for Very remote areas to 59% for Inner regional areas; further, there was a clear trend of increasing participation with increasing socioeconomic group, from 52% for women in the lowest socioeconomic group to 64% for those in the highest socioeconomic group (all age-standardised rates).

National participation rates for 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.

Relatively few women rescreen early, and a third respond to a reminder letter

Only 12% of women with a negative Pap test in 2013 rescreened earlier than the recommended 2 years. Of the women sent a 27-month reminder letter by a cervical screening register in 2013, 33% rescreened within 3 months. These are both very similar to 2012 data.

High-grade abnormality detection rates similar, despite decreases in ages <25

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. The age-standardised rate of 8 is similar to 2013, for which the rate was between 8 and 9.

The detection of high-grade abnormalities is now highest for women aged 25-29, with detection rates in women aged under 20 and 20-24 at historic lows. A decrease in high-grade abnormality detection rates in younger women is likely due to girls being vaccinated against HPV through the national program, who are expected to experience fewer abnormalities.