Young, Indigenous need more Pap testing
The Australian Cervical Cancer Foundation (ACCF) has expressed alarm at part of a report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) which shows that fewer Australian women are having regular Pap tests.
The figure dropped 2% from last year, which means that 43% of Australian women are not receiving regular Pap tests.
According to Joe Tooma, CEO of the ACCF, these figures are ‘extremely alarming’ for the health of Australian women, because 90% of women who die from cervical cancer will come from the group which doesn’t have tests as regularly as recommended by doctors.
‘The current rate of Pap tests is particularly alarming especially in the age groups of women aged 20-24,’ Joe says. ‘Early detection is crucial for cervical cancer treatment so it is important that young women keep up their Pap tests regularly and develop a good health habit for life.’
Contrary to widespread belief, women aged 20-29 have been found to have relatively high levels of high-grade cervical abnormalities, and left untreated these can develop into cervical cancer.
‘Complacency is an extremely alarming issue and young women need to understand that even if they have received the Gardasil vaccine, which protects against 70-80% of cervical cancer caused by HPVs, they still need to have regular Pap tests.’
The report by AIHW identifies that from the 2 million women who are screened annually, 107,000 identified some abnormality while 28,000 reported a high-grade abnormality.
Research by ACCF shows that women under the age of 25 are more than twice as likely as older women to agree that a Pap test is not as important for young women as it is for women over 25 years of age.
This figure is worrying, the ACCF says, as the nature of cervical cancer means that if detected early, the disease is usually treatable.
Also worrying is that the death rate from cervical cancer among Indigenous women is 5 times higher than the general population. Joe says this statistic, which is equal to that of developing countries, is unacceptable for any woman in Australia’s health system.
‘It is extremely troubling that the death rate from cervical cancer within Indigenous communities is so high,’ he says.
‘Closing the gap is a challenge we all need to take seriously and is an issue that needs urgent attention from both the government and the community.’