The National Cervical Screening Program (NCSP) aims to reduce cervical cancer cases, illness and death from cervical cancer in Australia. Cervical screening in Australia 2018 is the latest annual monitoring report for the NCSP, presenting key data for women screened in 2015 and 2016 (prior to the commencement of the current NCSP on 1 December 2017).
The following data are for women aged 20–69, screened under the previous NCSP.
Cervical cancer cases and deaths were low by international standards
In 2014, 764 women aged 20–69 were diagnosed with cervical cancer, and 143 women died from the disease in 2015. This is equivalent to 10 new cases of cervical cancer diagnosed and 2 deaths per 100,000 women. These rates are similar to those of previous years.
Both incidence and mortality halved between the introduction of the NCSP in 1991 and the year 2002, and have since remained at 9–10 new cases, and 2 deaths, per 100,000 women.
Nearly 6 in 10 women participated in the National Cervical Screening Program
In 2015–2016, more than 3.8 million women participated in cervical screening. This was 55% of women aged 20–69. Participation is showing a downward trend, with the age-standardised rate of 56% slightly lower than previous years (57% in 2014–2015 and 58% in 2013–2014).
Participation varied across remoteness areas, being highest in Inner regional areas at 57% and lowest in Very remote areas at 46%. There was also a clear association between participation and socioeconomic group, with participation rising from 50% for women in the lowest socioeconomic group to 62% for those in the highest socioeconomic group.
Relatively few women rescreened early, and a third responded to a reminder
Only 10% of women with a negative screen in 2015 rescreened earlier than the recommended 2 years, continuing a favourable downward trend. Of the more than 1 million women sent a 27-month reminder letter by a cervical screening register in 2015,
32% rescreened within 3 months, similar to the figure in previous years.
High-grade abnormality detection rate continued to decline in young women
In 2016, for every 1,000 women screened, 7 women had a high-grade abnormality detected by histology, providing an opportunity for treatment before possible progression to cancer. This is lower than in previous years, for which the rate was around 8.
The rate of detection of high-grade abnormalities for women under 30 has declined. This effect is most likely a result of girls who were vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV) under the National HPV Vaccination Program moving into the screening cohort, leading to declines in the occurrence (and hence detection) of high-grade abnormalities.
Indigenous women had lower screening rates and poorer outcomes
National participation rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are not available, as Indigenous status information is not collected on pathology forms in all jurisdictions, but there is evidence that this population group is under-screened.
Incidence of cervical cancer in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women is more than twice that of non-Indigenous women, and mortality nearly 4 times the non-Indigenous rate.