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Thousands of women not keeping up with cervical cancer screening

The continued decline in cervical screening participation has health experts concerned Queensland women are missing out on potentially life-saving screening.

Queensland’s Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young said the latest data showed 53.6 percent of eligible women in Queensland undertook a cervical screen in 2015-16, down from 57.1 percent in 2005-06.

“The downward trend in cervical screening participation is alarming,” Dr Young said.

“It’s free and saves lives, yet around half the population of Queensland eligible women are skipping their cervical screening.

“The rate of deaths from cervical cancer has halved since the National Cervical Screening Program started in 1991.

“The program has started using a new Cervical Screening Test which screens for human papillomavirus (HPV).

“HPV is the main cause of abnormal cells in the cervix, so the new test has meant women are receiving interventions earlier.

“Women aged 25 to 74 should book a Cervical Screening Test two years after their last pap test, and if the results are normal, get a test every five years after that.

“I urge Queensland women to get up to date with their cervical screening – it’s quick, free, and it may just save your life.”

Dr Young said almost all cases of cervical cancer are caused by HPV.

“It’s important for both women and men to ensure they’ve received the recommended vaccinations for HPV,” she said.

“Experts believe the vaccine, coupled with the new Cervical Screening Test, could see cervical cancer eliminated in Australia in less than 20 years.”

Two HPV vaccines are provided to teens in Year 7 through the School Immunisation Program – six months apart and free of charge. If you’ve missed out, a free catch up program is available through GPs and immunisation clinics up to age 19. People aged 20 and older who haven’t been vaccinated should speak with their GP.

Following a recent cervical cancer scare, 27-year-old Brisbane woman, Kat, urges women to keep up with their cervical screening at the recommended timeframes.

“I kept putting off my pap test because I was too busy or couldn’t be bothered,” Kat said.

“All the hype around the new Cervical Screening Test influenced me to make an appointment, six years after my last pap test.”

The results of the test came back positive for HPV 18 – one of two high-risk HPV types that cause most cervical cancers.

Kat was referred for a colposcopy; a procedure where a microscope is used to check for cell changes on the cervix. The doctor found a cluster of abnormal cells and took a biopsy.

“It was a really stressful time, waiting to find out if I was on the way to cervical cancer,” Kat said.

“Thankfully, the results showed a low-grade abnormality. The doctor said this type of abnormality usually clears by itself, along with the HPV, after a few years.

“I need to go in for regular cervical screens until the HPV no longer shows on the tests, and my body has fought off the virus for good.

“I’m really grateful for the new test, as the old one wouldn’t have picked up the HPV, and I may not have known I was at greater risk of cervical cancer until it was too late.

“I’m urging all women to make cervical screening a priority, it could literally save your life.

“It’s takes just a few minutes, and is now only needed every five years, so there really is no excuse.”

For more information on the National Cervical Screening Program, visit the Department of Health’s website. If you’re due for testing, contact your GP or healthcare provider to make an appointment.


Media contact:               3708 5376

Last updated: 12 April 2019