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In 1991, when the National Cervical Screening Program began, there were 1,091 cases of cervical cancer diagnosed and 329 deaths. Since then, both numbers of new cases and death rates have fallen, with 725 new cervical cancer cases diagnosed in 2003, and 218 deaths in 2004.
A new report, Cervical screening in Australia 2004-2005, released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) shows that Pap smears were provided to 3.5 million women aged 20 and over in the two-year period 2004-2005.
The National Cervical Screening Program targets women aged 18 to 69 years, and the report shows that about 61% of women in this age group participated in the screening Program.
Ms Christine Sturrock, of the AIHW's Health Registers and Cancer Monitoring Unit, said this was a small increase over the previous two year period.
'In 2005 the screening program detected 31,111 abnormalities, of which 16,274 were low-grade and 14,837 were high-grade abnormalities,' she said.
The detection rate of high-grade abnormalities has been rising, from 6.4 per 1,000 women screened in 1997 to 7.5 per 1,000 in 2005.
'Screening is particularly important for women in their 20s and 30s as high-grade abnormalities are much more common in women in these age groups,' Ms Sturrock said.
'For example, in 2005 there were 19 high-grade abnormalities detected per 1,000 women in the 20-24 years age group, but only one per 1,000 in women aged 65-69 years.
Participation in screening has been steadily declining in women younger than 40 years of age, but increasing in women aged 55 and over.
The age-standardised incidence rate fell by 47%, from 17.1 per 100,000 population in 1991 to 9.1 per 100,000 in 2003, while the age-standardised death rate more than halved between 1991 and 2004, from 4.0 per 100,000 population to 1.9 per 100,000.
The National Cervical Screening Program aims to achieve early detection of pre-cancerous abnormalities and therefore reduce the numbers of cases which develop into cervical cancer.
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