More women under 40 skipping cervical screening

A report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) compares participation rates for cervical screening in Australia with rates in other countries and finds that in general Australian rates compare favourably, but rates for under 40s are declining.

The recommended screening interval in Australia is two years, but many other countries have three- or five-year screening intervals,' said Christine Sturrock of the Institute's Health Registers and Cancer Monitoring Unit.

The report, Cervical Screening in Australia 2005-2006, measures three- and five-year participation rates in Australia for the first time.

The participation rate for women in Australia in the target age range 20-69 years who get Pap tests every two-year was 61%.

The three-year participation rate was 73%, which compares favourably with 69% for England, and 64% for Wales.

The five-year participation was 86% - a rate that was higher than England (79%), Wales (75%) and the Netherlands (77%) but lower than Finland (90%), which has the highest five-year screening rate in the world.

'While these rates are encouraging, participation in screening in Australia has been steadily declining in women aged less than 40 years,' Ms Sturrock said.

The Institute's Medical Adviser, Dr Paul Magnus, said, 'The need for women to have regular Pap tests remains as important as ever, despite the significant advance of the new cervical cancer vaccination.'

Other findings from the report include:

  • The number of new cases of cervical cancer has fallen from 13 per 100,000 (women of all ages) in 1991 when the Program commenced, to 7 per 100,000 in 2004.
  • The age-standardised death rate more than halved between 1991 and 2005, from about 4 per 100,000 women to just under 2 per 100,000.

The National Cervical Screening Program aims to achieve early detection of pre-cancerous abnormalities and therefore reduce the number of cases which develop into cervical cancer.


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