Pap tests or vaccine? Campaign explains

Tuesday 11 September, 2007

A mass advertising campaign beginning September 9 urges women to continue having Pap tests, despite the new cervical cancer vaccine.

Latest figures from the VCCR* show 63.4% of Victorian women are having regular two-yearly Pap tests. Although Victoria has one of the highest screening rates in the country, over a third of Victorian women still aren't having regular Pap tests.

"The new cervical cancer vaccine has created an additional approach to cervical cancer prevention in Australia. We are concerned this may cause women some confusion as to whether Pap tests are still important. Our campaign reassures women they are," said Kate Broun, Manager PapScreen Victoria.

"Pap tests remain vitally important, even for those who have been vaccinated, because they are the only way to detect abnormal cell changes in the cervix, which if left undetected could develop into cervical cancer," said Ms Broun.

Professor Jane Gunn, PapScreen's consultant general practitioner said Pap tests are especially important for all women who have had sex.

"The vaccine is a medical breakthrough, but more so for younger generations. It is most effective when given to girls before they commence sexual activity, that is, before exposure to the human papilloma virus (HPV)," said Professor Gunn.

"HPV, which is almost always the cause of cervical cancer, is spread through genital skin-to-skin contact and is very common among women who've had sex. For these women, the benefit of the vaccine may be reduced, as it is possible they have already had the types of HPV the vaccine prevents. This is why Pap tests remain critically important in preventing cervical cancer," said Professor Gunn.

PapScreen Victoria's advertising campaign, titled Don't Just Sit There, will run on TV, print and radio across the state for eight weeks from the beginning of September.

* Victorian Cervical Cytology Registry (2005-2006)

To arrange a Pap test women can visit their GP or local community health centre. Women who have questions about Pap tests, HPV or cervical cancer can ring the Cancer Council Helpline on 13 11 20 or visit http://www.papscreen.org.au/

Ends