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New report reveals Victoria on track to eliminate cervical cancer by 2030

Monday 9 November, 2020

World’s most up-to-date cancer statistics released

Victoria is on track to become one of the first jurisdictions in the world to eliminate cervical cancer, with the cancer seeing a 48% drop in incidence since 1982, a new report on the latest cancer statistics and trends released by Cancer Council Victoria has revealed today.

Cervical cancer is largely preventable through HPV vaccination and cervical screening, yet sadly 218 Victorian women were diagnosed with the disease last year.

The data were published today by the Victorian Cancer Registry (VCR) as part of its publication, Cancer in Victoria: Statistics and Trends 2019, which contains the world’s most up-to-date cancer incidence and mortality information.

Screening Program Manager at Cancer Council Victoria, Kate Broun, said the data indicates that the renewed National Cervical Screening Program, which commenced in December 2017, is working.

“We’re seeing a significant increase in pre-cancers detected, which we expected as the new primary screening test detects the presence of high-risk HPV, so it’s a more effective test. On the third anniversary of the new program commencing, it’s great to have this confirmed by the VCR data,” Ms Broun said.

“We’re also reaping the rewards of having a National HPV Vaccination Program. The report shows a significant decline in pre-cancer and invasive cervical cancer in young women, indicating the effectiveness of HPV vaccination.”

However, Ms Broun said that while Victoria is making excellent progress towards the target of eliminating the disease by 2030, a global goal set by the World Health Organisation, we need to increase uptake of cancer screening and HPV vaccination to reach this goal.

“Currently only 53% of eligible Victorians are taking part in cervical screening, and 80.9% of Victorian girls are fully vaccinated against HPV. And worryingly, screening and HPV immunisation rates are even lower in some priority communities. It’s important that we eliminate cervical cancer equitably. Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander women and women from some culturally diverse backgrounds have higher rates of pre-cancer and invasive cervical cancer. Additional and targeted efforts within a framework of self-determination are needed to work with these communities to address barriers to screening. The option we now have available for never screened and under screened women aged over 30 to self-collect for HPV is a significant tool to fast track us to eliminating cervical cancer equitably. Women should talk with their doctor to see if they are eligible to self-collect.”

The Cancer Council report also highlights the importance of improving diagnosis, monitoring and treatment of viral hepatitis to reduce Victoria’s increasing liver cancer diagnoses and mortality rates.

“Just under half of all liver cancers in Victoria between 1991 and 2013 were as the result of the hepatitis C or B virus, which is shocking when we consider that hepatitis B is preventable and hepatitis C is treatable” Ms Broun said.

Victorian Cancer Registry Director, Professor Sue Evans said the report shows that cancer survival is increasing in Victoria. In 2014-2018, 69% of Victorians with cancer survived 5 years after diagnosis, a statistically significant increase from 67% in 2009-2013.

“Although we are seeing cancer incidence increase due to a growing and ageing population, we are also encouraged to see improving survival rates thanks to advances in treatment, as well as the successes of screening programs to increase earlier detection.”

“Overall, survival was higher for women (71%) than for men (68%), and cancer survival for residents of metropolitan Melbourne (71%) is better than that for residents of the rest of Victoria (67%).”

Cancer Council Victoria CEO Todd Harper said: “Although we are buoyed by the continued trend of improved survival overall and for gains in many cancers, there are still a number of cancers where we have seen little improvement over many years, and where five-year survival rates remain low.”

The cancers with the lowest five-year year survival rates were liver (24%), lung (22%), cancer of unknown primary (13%), pancreas (12%) and mesothelioma (7%).

“Sustained investment in prevention and research will be important to improve survival for people with these cancers,” Mr Harper said.

“We have seen some great success with cancers that have received significant and consistent funding, so we know this model works. For example, female breast cancer has seen improved 5-year survival from 70% in 1981 to now 91% in 2018.”

Cancer in Victoria: Statistics and Trends 2019 also reveals:

  • 35,924 Victorians were diagnosed with cancer and 11,329 died from cancer. This equates to 98 new diagnoses every day, or one diagnosis every 15 minutes, and 31 deaths every day.
  • The five most common cancers in Victoria are prostate, breast, bowel, lung, and melanoma, collectively accounting for 57% of all new cancers and 46% of all cancer deaths.
  • Overall five-year cancer survival was 69%, an increase from 67% from 2009-2013, and from 46% in 1982-1986.
  • Cancers with the highest five-year survival were testis (98%), thyroid (95%), prostate (94%), melanoma (92%), follicular lymphoma (92%), and female breast (91%).