Data released today from the Victorian Pap test Registry contradicts fears that young women having the cervical cancer vaccine may discontinue Pap tests, believing they are no longer necessary.
During 2007, the year the vaccine first became available, 12 month Pap test participation rates for women aged 20 to 29 remained stable at 30%, comparable to 29.3% in 2006 and 30.5% in 2005.*
‘There was a concern women would become complacent about cervical screening once vaccinated, but even at this early stage we're seeing that this is not the case,' said Professor Jane Gunn, PapScreen Victoria's consultant general practitioner.
‘The vaccine does not replace Pap tests, it provides an additional preventative measure for women, and it's very reassuring to see the early data reflecting this,' said Prof Gunn.
‘Pap tests will remain important throughout a woman's life to monitor any changes to the cells of the cervix. While we expect the vaccine will reduce the number of abnormalities found on a Pap test, the Pap test is the only way to detect these changes,' said Prof Gunn.
This latest data supports findings from a recent survey conducted by Cancer Council Victoria, which revealed 99.5% of women aged 18 to 26 were aware Pap tests were still necessary for women who'd had the vaccine.**
‘PapScreen Victoria has provided information to women about the vaccine, but most importantly we remind those who are vaccinated to continue with Pap tests. It's fantastic to see this message getting across,' said the manager of PapScreen Victoria Kate Broun.
The vaccine is free for girls and women aged 12 to 26 but only until July 2009 (after July the vaccine will only be free for girls in Year seven through the school-based National Immunisation Program). These girls and young women are encouraged to access the vaccine as soon as possible, as the full course involves three doses over a 6-month period, and time is running out. The vaccine is available through GPs and council-run immunisation clinics.
* Victorian Cervical Cytology Registry Statistical report 2007.
** Cancer Issues Population Survey 2007: PapScreen Victoria component.
A full copy of the statistical report can be viewed on the Victorian Cervical Cytology Registry website at www.vccr.org.au
Women who have questions about Pap tests or the cervical cancer vaccine can call the Cancer Council Helpline on 13 11 20 or visit www.papscreen.org.au