Cancer Council Queensland welcomes proposed changes to cervical screening program

Cancer Council Queensland has welcomed recommended changes to Australia's cervical screening program announced today by Australia's Medical Services Advisory Committee.

Evidence shows a new HPV (human papillomavirus) test every five years, which is recommended to become the primary cervical screening tool, would be more effective than a pap smear and just as safe.

Cancer Council Queensland spokesperson Katie Clift said the proposed changes were only recommendations, and encouraged Queensland women to continue undertaking pap smears. 

“Regular pap smears currently remain the best protection against cervical cancer,” Ms Clift said.

“The recommendations announced today, pending governmental approval, will likely not take effect before 2016.

“It’s crucial that all eligible Queensland women prioritise regular pap smears – the latest figures show only 55 per cent participated in the National Cervical Screening Program in 2011-12.

“Through population screening at regular intervals, the pap smear test has the potential to reduce up to 90 per cent of cervical cancer cases in Australia.”

The key recommendations announced today are:

  • an HPV test should be undertaken every five years
  • cervical screening should commence at 25 years of age
  • women should have an exit test between 70 and 74 years of age, and
  • women with symptoms (including pain or bleeding) have a cervical test at any age.

Cancer Council Queensland hopes the changes also improve targeting of the program to Indigenous women.

“Indigenous females are nearly three times as likely to develop, and almost four times as likely to die from cervical cancer as non-Indigenous females,” Ms Clift said.

“Research shows lower rates of cervical cancer screening may be contributing to the higher rates of cervical cancer incidence in Indigenous women.

“If the changes are adopted, we will be urging all Queensland women to embrace the new HPV test from 2016, continuing Australia’s record in the early detection and treatment of cervical cancer.”

Around 770 women across Australia are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year – 180 of these are from Queensland. 

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