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Victoria leads the way in cervical cancer prevention

Monday 14 May, 2012

A new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has revealed Victoria has the highest two-yearly participation rate in cervical screening and the lowest incidence and mortality rates of cervical cancer in the country.

The report, Cervical Screening in Australia 2009-2010, found that 60.8% of eligible Victorian women had a Pap test during this two year period, compared to a national average of 57% of women.

PapScreen Victoria, a program of Cancer Council Victoria, is jointly funded by the State and Federal Governments as part of the National Cervical Screening Program. According to PapScreen's Program Manager, Hiranthi Perera, this latest data highlights the success of the program.

"We are very pleased that women in Victoria have been found to be more vigilant when it comes to cervical screening," said Ms Perera.

"These findings are proof that the work we do in Victoria through public awareness campaigns, training and education of health professionals and community development initiatives, is having a direct impact on the health of Victorian women."

"Together with key stakeholders, PapScreen Victoria works hard to educate and remind women of the importance of having regular Pap tests to reduce their risk of developing cervical cancer, as well as supporting cervical screening providers to ensure women have accessible and equitable service provision."

In 2010 PapScreen Victoria launched a new media advertising campaign entitled Peace of Mind. In the 11 weeks the campaign was on-air, the number of Pap tests in Victoria increased by 12% compared to the same period in 2008.

"We are really pleased that our Peace of Mind campaign, combined with our other social marketing activities, has been instrumental in motivating many thousands of Victorian women to have a Pap test," said Ms Perera.

Although the AIHW report has shown Victoria is leading the way when it comes to cervical cancer prevention in Australia, Ms Perera acknowledges there is still a long way to go.

"We still have a significant proportion of women not participating in regular screening, both in Victoria and across Australia.

"In our continued efforts to further increase the number of women having regular Pap tests, PapScreen is implementing several community and stakeholder initiatives in the coming months," said Ms Perera.

"These include funding programs to enable health clinics to extend their services and opening hours, and providing them with the training and resources necessary to educate and promote the benefits of Pap tests to women in their local communities.

"In addition, PapScreen recognises the importance of conducting regular research to identify screening behaviours as well as common misconceptions and barriers within the community, particularly among hard-to-reach women. This data helps shape program development and delivery to ensure women's needs are being met."

Key findings from the AIHW's 2009-2010 cervical screening report:

  • 60.8% of eligible women in Victoria had a Pap test in 2009-2010. This was the highest participation rate by state/territory. The national rate was 57%. 
  • Victoria had the lowest cervical cancer incidence rate (7.9 per 100,000 women) compared to the national rate of 9.1.
  • Victoria had the lowest cervical cancer mortality rate (1.5 per 100,000 women) compared to the national rate of 2.
  • In 2010, Victoria had the second lowest reported high-grade abnormality detection rate (7.4 per 1,000 women screened) behind the ACT (6.8 per 1,000 women). This rate is important to monitor, as high-grade abnormalities have a greater probability of progressing to invasive cancer.
  • Nationally, screening participation increased with higher socio-economic status (52% from low SES v 63% from high SES).
  • Screening was highest among women aged 45-54 (62.8%) and lowest at 20-24 years (43%).
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with cervical cancer and five times more likely to die from the disease.