Publish Date: 
Thursday, July 25, 2019 - 16:00

Embarrassment putting Australian women at risk of cervical cancer

A nationally representative survey of 1,000 women has found almost a third of women may delay or avoid cervical cancer screening because they find it "awkward", and a quarter because they're "embarrassed”.

The research, published by the Australian Cervical Cancer Foundation (ACCF), found almost half of those surveyed were unaware of the changes made to the screening program in 2017, when two-yearly pap smear tests were replaced with five-yearly human papillomavirus (HPV) tests. In light of these findings, the ACCF has launched a national campaign to increase screening rates across the country to ensure Australia reaches its goal of cervical cancer elimination by 2035.

Chair of the Translational Research Institute Foundation, Professor Ian Frazer, whose research led to the development of the HPV vaccine, said Australia had made significant gains in driving down rates of cervical cancer, but still had a way to go.

"To make it a reality, we must ensure we maintain high rates of HPV vaccination among eligible school-age male and females via the National Immunisation Program, whilst concurrently increasing cervical screening test participation rates from 50 per cent to 70 per cent," he said.

In a bid to overcome some of the barriers women face when getting screened for cervical cancer, a self-testing process was introduced to Australia's National Screening Program in 2017. It means women aged 30 and above who are two or more years overdue for screening and who decline a test with their GP are now able to take a vaginal swab themselves (while at a medical clinic), which is then sent for testing.

In Australia, 80 per cent of cervical cancers are found in women who are overdue for screening or have never been screened, therefore the ACCF is urging Australian women aged between 25 to 74 to ensure they've had the new cervical screening test by December 2019.

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