When will the program change, and why?
On 1 December 2017, Australia switched to a renewed cervical cancer screening program. So what does this mean for you, and what do you need to know so that you can be fully informed about the changes?
Making a good program even better
Since Australia's cervical cancer screening program was introduced in 1991, the rate of cervical cancer cases and deaths in Australian women has halved.
However, over the last 10 years the rate of new cervical cancer cases and deaths has stopped dropping. Although Australia has one of the lowest rates of cervical cancer in the world, the Pap smear test screening program has reached its limits. And now new technology means there is an even better test available. A study of 175,000 women found testing for HPV provides much greater protection than Pap smear tests against the development of invasive cervical cancer.
In Australia we also now have a HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine (Gardasil) program, offered to high school-aged boys and girls. This is helping reduce the risk of cervical cancer in our younger generations of women.
With a new test and our vaccination program, our chances of preventing and finding cervical cancer are even better.
A safer, more effective test
The new cervical screening program means that cervical cancer prevention in Australia will become even more effective.
The changes include:
- the test - the new screening test will now look for HPV (which causes almost all cervical cancers), not just abnormal cells (like the Pap smear test did)
- how often it's needed - a better test means that after your first HPV test, you only need to be screened once every five years
- the starting age - the first test will be done at 25, rather than 18-20.
Australian research has shown that the renewed program, with its more accurate and effective test, will lower the rate of cervical cancer cases and deaths by at least 20%.