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Australia’s Cervical Cancer Screening Program: What You Need to Know

Australia has one of the lowest rates of cervical cancer in the world, but the journey to lowering these rates hasn’t been an easy one.

In 2018, cervical cancer is estimated to be the 14th most commonly diagnosed cancer among females, with an estimated 930 new cases of cervical cancer diagnosed this year alone.

While this may seem quite low compared to other types of cancer, this rate has significantly dropped from the high rate of 19 new cases per 100,000 women in 1982.

So, what is the cause for this astonishing drop in diagnosis rates?

The pap smear test strategy implemented by the Australian government paired with advancements by some ground-breaking Australian doctors. Though, researchers weren’t satisfied and could see room for even more improvement in the diagnostic test.

Recently, changes in the cervical cancer screening tests have been made. To ensure women across Australia are getting the right information, we have outlined the main changes that all women should be made aware of.  

 

We’ve Come a Long Way Over the Past 30 Years

Australia has always been at the forefront of cancer prevention as the Gardasil 9 Vaccination was invented on our shores by Dr Ian Frazer and his team over 10 years ago. This vaccination is proven to protect against nine HPV types which cause around 90% of cervical cancers in women, and has proven to be a worldwide success, with more than 270 million doses administered worldwide as of May 2017.

Additionally, after the old pap smear program was introduced in 1991, cervical cancer rates halved. Women across the country are sure to have experienced this testing program, ideally conducted every 2 years between the ages of 18 and 70 to test for abnormal cells in the cervix.

To ensure women also knew when they were due for their next test, a 27-month reminder letter was sent out, to ensure constant screening and possible early detection of abnormal or cancerous cells. 

As numbers remained steady, with no improvement or decline, Australian researchers began to develop other ways of testing that can deliver an even better rate for Australian women. So, at the tail end of 2017, a new screening test was unveiled to the public and is hoped to reduce cervical cancer rates and deaths by at least 20%.

What Makes this New Test Different?

Essentially, the new screening program is designed to work together with the HPV vaccination program so early prevention, detection and if needed treatment can be maintained.

The Key Differences

  • Instead of needing a smear every 2 years, with this improved screening program women will only need to be tested every 5 years. Not only that, but the first test is only needed at 25, rather than 18.
  • The new test will now look for HPV as well as abnormal cells. The old test only looked for abnormal cells. HPV is a common infection which shows no symptoms. The new test looks for and identifies the infection that could turn cells into cancer a step earlier than the old Pap smear test was able to.

 

Going Forward

To see the breakthroughs that Australian doctors and scientists continue to make in relation to cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatments is both exciting and humbling. While it’s important to look ahead, it’s also important to acknowledge where we started and to see how far we have come in the journey to improving how the medical industry across the world diagnoses and treats cancer.

If you require diagnostic tools to effectively perform the cervical cancer screening test at your practice, please get in touch with the expert medical supply wholesalers at Team Med today.

Let us help you